Customer Glen Pszczola buys some merchandise at the Key Center Angel Guild with help from Phyllis Henry and Betty Beal, on the cash register. Photo by, Scott Turner, KP News

 

The Angel Guild is a thrift store, tucked into an inconspicuous space in the Key Center Corral.

The impact the nonprofit and its volunteer angels have made on the Key Peninsula since its inception is substantial. As of December 2012, the total of proceeds from the sales of donated items stands at $1,010,458.

The Angel Guild has provided monies for grant funding for nearly every qualifying organization on the Key since its inception in1979.

A year ago, shop hours were expanded to open on Tuesdays. Since then, the average store income has increased by $1,700 per month. With that and the aging, illness and absence of some of their 40-50 regular workers, organization leaders have identified a need for more volunteer help.

A Saturday visit to the shop found two clerks at the counter and two workers in the sorting room.

Phyllis Henry and Betty Beal, two of those volunteers, both said they enjoy getting to meet the customers and socializing.

“It’s always exciting when someone finds the perfect bargain. And the price is always right,” Henry said.

Beal said she is surprised at the number of brand new items received, tags intact.

“It’s the mail orders that don’t fit. They are too much trouble to send back, so they donate them,” she said.

Brand names like Coldwater Creek and Lands’ End are commonly found in the shop, they said. The volunteers who sort the donations set all prices and store policies don’t allow the clerks to change them.

Henry said that grandparents often come in with their grandkids and let them pick out a few toys for a quarter or 50 cents, and “everyone leaves happy.”

Nancy Korseck said she had shopped in the store so often, a clerk had suggested she should volunteer, so she did.

She finds the Angel Guild a good way “to help a lot of people.” Now she is in charge of the sorting room and works two days a week researching prices, evaluating items for sale and placing special items on eBay for auction or Amazon.com for sale. She said that some items need to reach an expanded market, outside the Key Peninsula. She recalled a McCoy cookie jar that sold for over $400 and a box of Wedgewood pattern dishes that were sold by the piece and brought in over $1,800.

Marlene Miles, who does the quality control from the shed behind the store, checks for soiling, working zippers, missing buttons, rehemmed items, rips and tears. Miles also oversees the adult puzzles and the children’s toy section and takes the dolls home to clean and dress them, and to fix their hair.

“People are surprised at how clean everything is. But most of it doesn’t come in that way. It can be discouraging,” Korseck said.

The Angels try to take in as many donations as they can, but due to federal regulations for baby furniture and factory recalls of certain brand appliances, those items cannot be accepted —“even if it looks brand new.”

A full-time paid coordinator, Carla Parkhurst, runs the store. There are volunteers dedicated specifically to testing the sewing machines, organizing craft materials, overseeing the books, managing the jewelry department, testing electronics and equipment, testing the bread machines by baking a loaf, and so on.

Shoes and purses that do not sell in the store are picked up by an individual who pays the Angel Guild a small amount for them. He then ships the items to third world countries.

Sorters can encounter surprises, not all of them pleasant. “The work is dirty and heavy,” Korseck said. “And those with allergies don’t come out here (to the shed).”

A finance committee meets monthly to review grant applications and make recommendations. “Our greatest need is for volunteers who take their time commitment seriously,” Treasurer Ann Nelson said via email.

The Angels only make grants to Key Peninsula organizations or activities that benefit the people on the Key Peninsula. They do not give to individuals, religious or political organizations. A list of grant recipients posted next to the door inside the store includes Mustard Seed Project, KP Community Services and Food Bank, KP Civic Center, Peninsula Light, Boy Scouts, KP Fire District and the KP Community Council, just to name a few.

Store vouchers are given to the needy through the KP Community Services and Children’s Home Society. All donation requests must be mailed to P.O. Box 703 Vaughn, WA 98394. Donations are tax-deductible and receipts are available for that purpose.

These Angels may have retired from their paying careers but none of them has slowed in their commitment to community. They all work a minimum of 12 hours a month. All of them enjoy meeting other women who have the same interests and helping with customers. “It is fun. No day is the same,” Korseck said.

For information, call (253) 884-9333.

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