Almost all thrift stores offer good deals on gently used items. But for the residents, volunteers and visitors to the St. Camillus Thrift Shop, the “good deal” is much more than a bargain buy.
Located on the campus of the St. Camillus Retirement Community, located across from the Milwaukee County Zoo, the St. Camillus Thrift Shop has served the residents of the senior living campus for several years. Recently, however, they expanded their store to a larger space, and now the general public can enjoy the plethora of items that are donated on an almost daily basis.
According to Marion Whelpley, who co-coordinates the thrift shop along with her assistant, Ginnie Kestly, the store offers so much more than a wide assortment of gently used items.
“The thrift shop is an excellent community resource for all who visit,” said Whelpley. “Residents find camaraderie here. They can stop in and find a new blouse, nightgown, book or picture frame that they need and meet friends from all areas of the campus. For those who are unable to drive to a store, this is a wonderful option.”
Upon entering the thrift shop, visitors are directed to a room filled with furniture, lighting options, pictures, frames and other household goods. There’s a homey feeling to the room with the items displayed in an appealing and attractive manner.
“We try to decorate a little bit, and our prices are beautiful,” Kestly said.
Another room in the thrift shop features things walkers, canes and wheelchairs which may eventually be needed by some in the senior living facility. Kestly said the walkers are popular.
“They sell almost as fast as we get them,” she noted.
Many of the items come from residents and employees at St. Camillus.
“Most of our donations come from residents … families who have lost a member of their family donate their things to us. We give them a tax form. And a lot of our donations come from employees and a lot of our donations come from residents who find they have an overflow of items when they move in,” Kestly said.
People from the community are also welcome to donate items.
“We do not do any picking up in the community,” Kestly said, although they make arrangements to pick up items on the St. Camillus campus.
The majority of items are stored in the main area of the thrift shop. Neatly arranged by category, visitors can find men and women’s clothing, and occasionally children’s clothing, an assortment of books, wicker baskets, religious articles, desk supplies, jewelry, greeting cards, household goods, linens, pillows and blankets, glassware and miscellaneous items.
In the center of the thrift shop, showcased in a cabinet, are myriad of antiques, valuable jewelry and other treasures.
“You can see the prices are a little bit more than the other things in the shop, but they are worth it,” Kestly said, adding that Whelpley researches the donated items on the Internet to arrive at an appropriate price.
The two coordinators are in tune with what an item represents.
Whelpley noted, “If an item commands a larger, more specialized audience, we sell it on eBay.”
“Marion and I both price the items,” Kestly said. “The prices are really great. And everything we earn is donated to the St. Camillus Foundation. They use it where they see fit to support the needs of the campus.”
Some of the treasures that have come to the St. Camillus Thrift Shop are impressive.
“Some unique items we have sold were beautiful jade earrings set in sterling silver, sofas from Porters of Racine, Drexel bedrooms sets, watercolors by Milwaukee artists, retro living room chairs, an antique toaster, a 16-bottle wine refrigerator and designer women’s fashions like Dooney & Bourke and Allen Edmonds shoes for men,” Whelpley said.
In the two months since the St. Camillus Thrift Shop has been open to the public, people are starting to find the store.
“We are starting to see people from the community. It’s getting around by word of mouth and that’s wonderful. And we give them pretty good directions if they call,” Kestly said.
There are about 22 volunteers who work in the shop. Most are residents of the St. Camillus community, but there are also a few from the outside community.
If you want to shop:
The St. Camillus campus
Visitors to the shop should enter on the 103rd Street entrance. The thrift shop is
“Our volunteers enjoy helping customers find what they are looking for. They diligently work a two-hour shift each week and know many of our visitors by name,” Whelpley said. “If a customer is looking for something special, they may note it on a slip on the shop door and Ginnie will call them when the item they are looking for arrives.”
Volunteers are the heart of the shop. Kestly has been volunteering for about eight years. At 90 years of age, she said she gets much more from her volunteer time than she gives.
“I love this,” Kestly said. “This is such a great out for me. I just love meeting people.”
Whelpley enjoys what the thrift shop provides to the residents and the community.
“We are helping the environment by recycling people’s treasures and finding a good home for things. If you have gently used items you no longer need or want, please consider donating to our shop,” she said.