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     For more than 360 days last year, 71 volunteers kept Black Mountain’s Kiwanis Thrift Shop open seven hours a day, six days a week, helping it raise more than $184,000 to benefit children and families across the Swannanoa Valley.

      Two weeks ago, the Kiwanis Club thanked them at its annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, held at the Christmount Dining Hall.

      Forty of the volunteers are non-Kiwanians, members of the community who see all the good the thrift shop does.  To outsiders, their jobs might seem laborious, tedious and thankless.   Many of the volunteers work out of sight in the back room, sorting through never-ending mounds of donated clothing, books and other items that donors drop off outside the shop’s back door.  Some of the donations are garbage (dirty or damaged goods destined straight for the Dumpster,) and some are gems that are good enough to sell.

The stuff that’s in-between is culled out and distributed to other nonprofits that can use it.  Believe it or not, some of the merchandise is brand new.

       But “thankless”?  No, the volunteers get all the thanks they want from helping to make clothing, shoes, toys, household goods, books, records, tapes and other items available to the public at bargain basement prices.  And the best thanks of all comes from knowing that the thrift shop helps support many local students and non-profits allyear, through Kiwanis Club scholarships and grants.

        So, like busy bees, they scurry around, sorting and pricing the donated items, placing them on the display shelves and racks, testing electrical items, staffing the front counter, hauling out the trash, vacuuming the floors, and doing whatever else needs done - all without pay.

        Asked during the luncheon why she comes in to run the cash register every Wednesday morning, 89-year-old Minnie Bartlett, the longest-serving volunteer, brought down the house with her answer:  “To get away from home,” she said. 

Angela Twitty, who pulls the Saturday morning shift, said that the way the shop helps the Valley’s schools is what made her decide "I wanted to volunteer and give something back to them for giving to our kids.”

All the volunteers agree that the comradarie they share with their fellow workers, the interaction with friendly customers, and the upbeat vibes of the shop make it a fun place to work.  Volunteer coordinator Lois Nix has the never-ending job of finding replacements when other shift workers are sick or away.  When she can’t find anyone, she fills in herself. 

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, club president David Wilks called Nix “our volunteer of last resort.”

       The job of managing the shop and all its volunteers falls to two octogenarian Kiwanis members who serve as co-managers.  Jim Parsons, 87, mans the Friday afternoon shift, fills in when other shift managers are absent, keeps the books and does the sales analysis. The rest of the time, Parsons joked, “I’m in charge of moral, so I go down there often and harass the ladies.”

Bill Cox, 85 and a co-manager for about the last 14 years, regularly puts in 15-20 hours a week overseeing volunteer training, keeping the schedules and handling much of the business end, including finding and hiring contractors to take care of such things as the security system, the HVAC, the Dumpster service, and keeping up with needed repairs.  On top of that, he fills in when other shift managers are absent.  

“I’d be lost without it in retirement,” Cox declared. “It’s a lot of people doing a lot of little things that mean a lot to a lot of people.” 

The Kiwanis club urgently needs more volunteers.  Pick up an application form at the shop at 503 W. State St.

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