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Thrifty Shoppers Find a Good Samaritan

Profits from Haddon Township thrift shop benefits hospice.

Looking for a bargain to put on your back, your feet or your tabletop? Head to Samaritan Thrift, the newest shop in Haddon Township.

Most of the shoppers who have visited the store since it opened on Aug. 14 have returned, again and again. Some are drawn by the shop window, changed daily by manager Amy Buchanan.

Those size 6½ gold-toned cowboy boots with the lizard skin pattern that were in the window last week? Gone in a day, replaced by purple pumps. The cranberry-toned glass mixing bowls won’t last long either.

Stock changes every day the store is open, all donated with proceeds helping to pay the cost for palliative and hospice care for seriously and terminally ill patients who are under- or uninsured.

Nestled into the first block of Haddon Avenue, between two old landmarks—McMillan’s Bakery and Westmont Party Supply—the shop at 33 had been a knitting boutique.

Samaritan Thrift has a one-price-fits-most theory. Few items of clothing or accessories are marked with price stickers. Signs posted throughout the shop list what things cost. Earrings are $2; jeans are $5; handbags, $4, and long-sleeved men’s shirts, $4.

Some special items, like a small number of designer and never-used handbags, are as high (low?) as $35.

Buchanan, the manager, visits the store toward the end of each day to close out. The rest of the time it’s covered by at least two volunteers, who rotate for two- or three-hour shifts. Few of them leave on time, instead chatting with customers who already have become regulars.

Many of both the volunteers and the shoppers had been associated over the years with other resale shops. When this one opened, it created an opportunity for them to re-connect. Shouts of “I know you,” ring through the store most days.

Buchanan said the initial stock for the shop came from staff and volunteers at Samaritan Hospice, located in Marlton. As those women networked with friends, more items were donated. Now, it’s not unusual for someone to bring in one bag of donations and leave with a second holding purchases.

Fran Shinn of Mount Laurel learned about the shop while she was volunteering in the office at Samaritan Hospice, doing data entry work in the headquarters off Greentree Road. “I’ve been there seven years, now I’m here every Friday,” said Shinn.

Sharing her shift on Friday is Joann Balzano of Cherry Hill, who usually comes to work toting a plate of cookies. “I love it here. I love these women. We just a talk and laugh,” said Balzano, as she offers a glass of cranberry juice to a shopper. Balzano is a retired judicial secretary in U.S. District Court in Camden and an occasional caterer.

“We’ve been selling a lot of women’s clothes, especially jackets. The men’s clothes don’t move so well,” said Shinn. Sometimes housewares don’t stay long on the shelves. “I just sold a wok and I know it wasn’t here on Wednesday,” said Balzano.

Buchanan said men seem to shy away from resale shops. “A woman can pick up a shirt or sweater for a man and it will fit. He has to try on a suit,” she said.

Buchanan, who lives in Blenheim, came to the shop management spot by responding to an Internet job offering. She previously worked as the comptroller for a printing business in Philadelphia that closed after 40 years in business. She also works part-time in a department store, but describes herself as a long-time thrift shop fan. “You just never know what you’re going to find,” she said, which is the mantra for most resale advocates.

“Samaritan did a lot of research. There’s a lot of foot traffic here,” she said. Some of the store fittings have been recycled as well as the stock. The clothing racks, for example, came from a shop that Contact 609, an emergency telephone hot line agency, had operated in Turnersville until the end of July.  Contact’s consignment shop on Kings Highway in Haddonfield is still open and thriving, one of several in the borough.

There’s some multi-tasking among the volunteers. Maryanne Borden, who lives nearby in Oaklyn, also is the “trash girl.” She’s taken on the responsibility of putting out trash to be collected on for Monday pickup, when the store is closed.

The shop will not take donations of books, CDs or VCRs, televisions or computers. It also will not accept infant equipment, including car seats, large furniture, cameras, lawn and garden equipment, or anything with an odor.

The shop also is a retail outlet for jewelry designed and made in Uganda and sold to finance an educational fund that supports residents of that country suffering from tuberculosis, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Makers of the beaded bracelets, necklaces and earrings collect colored recycled paper, cut it into triangles and tightly roll and glue in before adding it to wire. The colorful jewelry items, marketed as Beads for Education, range from $10 to $20. Information about the Uganda program is available at Kawempehomecare.org.

Samaritan Thrift shop accepts cash payments only and more than a few shoppers have left a shopping bag behind while they went home or visited a ATM in the nearby Wawa.

The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed Sunday and Monday. The shop’s phone number is 856-240-7248.

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