'Little shop of bargains' bountiful boon to community
It's never too early to learn how to bargain shop. Courtney Black, 3, looks through some of the clothes at the Thrift Shop's new location in bldg 2531, Alabama Avenue. She was helping her mom find dress shirts for dad.

FORT POLK, La. -- The thrill a shopper gets from finding a bargain is probably akin to the adrenaline rush felt by hunters cornering prey. Walking out with a well-made purchase can give shoppers a heady feeling of success and accomplishment. Like a bloodhound after a scent, good clearance sale shoppers scour stores looking for the items they're after. On Fort Polk, one of the best places to find gently used items at economical prices is the Thrift Shop. This post staple has recently moved from its old location across from the Main Post Exchange on Colorado Avenue. to Alabama Avenue. The Thrift Shop, which takes cash or checks only, is now housed in bldg 2531, in the last barracks building on the right.

To celebrate the move, a grand opening was held Jan. 12 to welcome customers to the new location. Laura Garrison, store manager, said many people stopped by the new shop before they were officially open. "People were practically beating down the door before we were open because they get bargains here that they aren't going to get anywhere else like clothes from between 5 to 50 cents. We try to put our stuff at a low price that anybody can afford it, no matter what their income."

One shopper looking for bargains was Gwen Black. "I like to shop at the Thrift Shop because they have such good deals. I stopped by today with my daughter to look for some toys and clothes for her. She grows out of her things pretty quickly. I think the pants she has on right now came from here," said Black.

But the Thrift Shop has more than just clothes. It's filled with a variety of items. "We always have books, games, toys, DVDs, kitchen items, clothing, shoes and purses. Sometimes we have jewelry, toiletry items and larger items like furniture. The only challenge is this building is a little smaller than the old one. So we're going to have to take larger items as we have room for them. Customers are always looking for furniture, but people need to call before bringing any big furniture items to make sure we have a spot for it," said Garrison.
Items folks want to put on consignment at the Thrift Shop should be brought by on Thursdays between 9:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. or the first and third Saturdays of each month from 9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. No more than 15 pieces are allowed to be consigned per person and of these only 10 can be clothing. Items stay on consignment for no more than 3 months. For more information about pricing and percentages or any other questions patrons are urged to call the Thrift Shop at 531-0459.

The Thrift Shop is run by both paid employees and volunteers. "Our volunteers come in for a few hours here and there to help go through donations. We appreciate all the help we get, but we're pretty good with volunteers right now," said Garrison.

Sherylyn Gibson, treasurer for the Thrift Shop Board and regular shop volunteer, said the Thrift Shop is a necessity for many. "It helps a lot of single and young Soldiers with Families. We have tons of ladies coming in here for maternity and baby items. Newlyweds come in looking for household items. There is a constant turnover because as we are bringing the donations in, employees are pricing it, putting it out on the floor and it's going right back out the door," said Gibson.
In addition to helping Soldiers and Family members find necessary items at economical prices, the Thrift Shop is a nonprofit organization that uses the money it makes to benefit the Fort Polk community. "Organizations can come to the Thrift Shop to get a form and fill it out. The board receives the requests and if approved, the organization gets the money. For example, every year $10,000 is earmarked for the Officers' Spouses' Club scholarship fund. This year we gave $3,000 to the toy drive. We give to organizations such as boy and girl scouts. We give to schools, if they have a majority of military students that attend their campus. We don't give to individuals. It's always an organization," said Gibson.

Joyce Baird, chairperson of the Thrift Shop Board and volunteer, said, "We help so many different organizations here on post and in the surrounding community with their financial needs. They let us know what they need and what it's for. The committee meets and we vote on it. The Thrift Shop Board has representatives from all the commands here on post. All money, after the Thrift Shop's operating expenses are taken out, goes back into the community."

That commitment to the community doesn't go unnoticed. Thrift Shop customer Tina Robinson said, "I like to save money but I also like to purchase things at the Thrift Shop because they help by giving money back to the community. My favorite thing to shop for is books, but if I see something that catches my eye and I need it, I get it."

Baird said helping all those people is one of the reasons she loves to volunteer at the shop. She said people of every age come into the Thrift Shop and she likes to hear their stories -- happy and sad. "We once had a young female Soldier come into the store. She was very excited because it was the first time she had her own apartment. She needed everything. We had so much fun helping her find what she needed. We actually had furniture at that time and she furnished her entire apartment for around $150. She was so excited and happy she was dancing out the door. It was a lot of fun for us to help her," said Baird.

Dee Meeks shops at the store on a regular basis. "I usually shop at the Thrift Store once every week or two. I like it because you can find a lot of nice things at really good prices. My husband is lower in rank and we have three kids and this is an economical way of being able to get the stuff that you need," said Meeks.

The Thrift Shop takes almost any type of donation. "If we aren't open, there's a bin outside. We ask people to drop things off in the bin or bring it inside when the doors are open," said Baird.
Since tax season is beginning, anyone who wants a tax deduction on items they're donating should come in during the Thrifts Shop's regular hours, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or on the first and third Saturday of each month from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. "If people want a tax deduction for their donation, they should bring their items in and we'll fill out a piece of paper they can use for deductions," said Garrison.

If you're curious about the new Thrift Shop location, stop by and check things out. "We want to get the word out about the move because we want donations and shoppers. People need to come in and get those bargains and help us help the community," said Baird.

Page last updated Wed January 27th, 2010 at 14:21