Sharp Grossmont Hospital's Thrift Korral recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with festivities, a sale and senior volunteers who were there when the doors opened in 1992. The 10,000-square-foot resale boutique in downtown La Mesa has helped donate more than $3.5 million to the hospital and hospice residences in San Diego County.
Grossmont Hospital Volunteer Auxiliary operates the Thrift Korral, which is the group's largest fundraising vehicle. Donated resale items are carefully reviewed by volunteers before they reach store shelves, and include housewares, furniture, clothing, books, collectibles and art. Through clothing drives at the hospital, Sharp Grossmont employees themselves contribute to the store's inventory, knowing their hand-me-downs (and sometimes brand-new items) will be used for multiple great causes in several ways:
- Items that the store receives from donors are often brought to the hospital to donate to patients in need. Through the Auxiliary's "Discharge With Dignity," clothing and shoes go to patients who need them when they leave the hospital.
- Proceeds from the store can also be used to purchase necessary items for patients, such as hearing aid batteries or at-home medical needs like walkers.
- Through its inventory, Thrift Korral also supplies jackets, blankets and shoes for the hospital's outreach to homeless people in downtown San Diego. The auxiliary also uses the space to benefit the community — the store serves as a "cool zone" during hot La Mesa days, and offers ice water to those who stop by.
The Thrift Korral is staffed by three paid staff members, and a group of 75 selfless volunteers. Six days a week volunteers collect, clean, price and display donated items throughout the store.
Teresa Henkel was the store's first manager and was instrumental in opening its doors 25 years ago. Some of her favorite memories are of working with the volunteers. "That was an especially rewarding experience," says Henkel. "They are a family and take care of each other, have lunch together and so on. For some it's a big part of their social life, and they'll remain friends forever."
Approaching 98 years old, Mickie Geiger is the store's oldest active volunteer and resident matriarch. She has been with the Thrift Korral since the beginning and was the head greeter at the door on the day of the anniversary.
"I live in a place where they bring me to work in the morning, and I work for four hours," says Geiger. "I come often, and it's a lot of fun. You just can't work in a better place."
Visit the Thrift Korral at 8693A La Mesa Blvd. in La Mesa, Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am to 4 pm (closed Sundays).