Volunteer workers on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall have been called the heart of the base.
Maria Randolph has given a half century of heart.
The grandmother, great-grandmother, and military spouse is a 50-year volunteer at the Fort Myer Thrift Shop. A golden anniversary celebration is or was due -- the lone problem is -- Maria is not sure the exact date of when she started assisting people with sales and accepting donations.
"It had to be in October or November," Randolph recalled about her first day at the Fort Myer Thrift Shop in 1967. "For a while, I was a cashier. At that time, we closed at four o'clock in the afternoon. I had to balance the cash register. A military police officer would follow me to the bank, and I would deposit the money in the bank."
Soon, Randolph will leave her Jacqueline-of-all-trades volunteer spot for retirement in her native Paraguay. At the thrift shop, she has worked in the office, in the boutique (her current position), tagged merchandise, and refurbished damaged stock. Her specialty is -- well -- everything.
"She's been a love," one thrift shop employee said of Randolph.
Some employees and volunteers have known Randolph for dozens of years. When starting a shift at Bldg. 224, staff can count on Randolph's constant, pleasant demeanor.
"She's very even-tempered, which is nice to work with," said Enrica Frost, who has worked with Randolph for close to 20 years. "She's happy. She's not particularly stressed out with life. She's not a bad person to have around."
Her final shift at the thrift shop is scheduled for Tuesday. She began her volunteering at the store when the thrift shop was located on the South Post.
Randolph met her late husband, George, in Paraguay and immigrated to the United States. Fort Myer will always have a special place in her heart. Her wedding took place at the Old Post Chapel on Sept. 16, 1967. She started volunteering at the thrift shop soon after.
"He was a medical adviser for the armed forces, and he brought me back here," Randolph said of her husband, who passed away in 2017. "He showed me around (Fort Myer), and he showed me the Thrift Shop. At that time, the thrift shop was on the South Post. He took me there, and the ladies were happy to have a new person.
"The South Post was very interesting because they were already starting to close it down," she added. "People from the Pentagon would walk over to the South Post. We had a lot of customers who came from the Pentagon."
Working mostly at the boutique, where jewelry is the main merchandise, a typical day for Randolph includes pricing rings, earrings, and bracelets, greeting and chatting with customers, and stock repairs.
"We work very hard here," Randolph said. "Usually, I'm in charge of the jewelry. I worked part time in the jewelry business for almost 20 years. I price the jewelry and sometimes I take jewelry home and my daughter is very handy. She fixes stuff and cleans and polishes."
As she prepares to leave, Randolph is planning an estate sale, and she is quite sure if not all her possessions are sold, they will land in one spot for resale.
"What doesn't sell will come here," Randolph said as she laughed. "I'm sure big pieces of furniture that people won't buy will come here. Please everybody come buy my stuff in the thrift shop."
All military spouses -- active duty and retired -- from all services and all ranks are invited to join the thrift shop team of volunteers. Call (703) 527-0664 for volunteer information.
Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.