In a small thrift shop on a quiet stretch of Arizona Avenue, a group of women sift through piles of clothes and household goods, looking for anything that might catch the eye of someone who has happened upon hard times or someone who is looking for a great deal.
The Assistance League of East Valley has been operating this Chandler thrift shop for 10 years. The merchandise comes from community donations, and the shop is one of the league’s many acts of charity.
The Assistance League is a national non-profit organization that helps communities around the country through a variety of philanthropic programs. Local projects, such as Operation School Bell and Adopt-A-School — which provide children with the clothes, hygiene products and materials they need in order to succeed in classes — are funded by money earned from profitable league ventures like the thrift store.
“This is a very upscale thrift shop,” says Lynn Walti, president of the Assistance League of East Valley. “We don’t put just anything out.”
About 20 Assistance League members staff the store. The women are retired, and their work is voluntary. Walti says that there is a strong friendship that forms between the employees, and while there is plenty of socializing on the job, there is also a lot of hard work.
The women spend all day Monday sorting through the donations they have received throughout the previous week. China sets are dusted off, shirts are steamed, stuffed animals are fluffed and everything is priced. Women’s skirts and dresses range from $4 to $6, while men’s blazers start at $8. Baby clothes are a dollar.
While the store has a good stream of donations and customers coming in, it has come a long way since its humble beginnings. When its doors opened in 2002, the Assistance League of East Valley had very little money to operate the store with. Clothing racks were purchased from department stores and any other office equipment, like desks or chairs, were donated by league members.
Store manager Bonnie Domin says that although the equipment at the shop is donated and the prices are low, the atmosphere inside isn’t reflective of what the word “thrift” implies.
“Because somebody is having financial difficulties, that doesn’t mean that they can’t shop at a place that’s just as good as (other upscale stores),” says Domin. “We’re very particular about keeping our stuff clean and how our store looks so they feel this is an experience for them … they feel as if they’re going into a store that really does have some class.”
Walti says that while the store targets lower income customers in its marketing, they have many customers who don’t come for the low prices but for the quality of the clothes.
“We have people who shop here who probably could shop elsewhere,” says Walti. “(T)hey’re here because it’s nice stuff. And they’re all welcome.”
What: A non-profit thrift store that uses the money earned to fund local charity projects.
When: Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Where: 1950 N. Arizona Ave., Suite 3, Chandler
Information: (480) 792-1600 or EastValley.AssistanceLeague.org
More than a store
The Assistance League of East Valley will host its 21st annual Luncheon and Fashion Show fundraiser at the Arizona Biltmore Resort on Saturday, March 16. The event starts at 9 a.m. with a raffle, silent auction and boutique shopping, with a luncheon and fashion show to follow.
Tickets are $70 per person for regular seating and $75 per person for runway seating. $30 of the ticket cost is tax deductible.
For tickets or information, contact Kay Fisher at (480)-580-5319 or email@example.com.
Ellen, a junior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.