Never underestimate the power of a small group.
In 1970, a group of doctors' wives in Grove City wanted to raise money to help battle cancer. More women joined the cause. Many were what we called housewives in those days. Again, don't underestimate.
Mary Crane, of Grove City, was one of the originals. "Cancer was coming to the forefront and not going away anytime soon," she said. "We wanted to help." They started with fundraisers such as bake sales and card parties.
"We heard that a couple other towns were starting thrift shops to raise money," Mary said. They followed the example and rented a little store on Broadway next to an auction house. The first year they made $500. In 2012, they donated $31,745 to the cause.
They moved a couple times for better space. In the last decade, they opted to send their monies to the Columbus Cancer Clinic, begun in 1921, and in 2005 became an agency of LifeCare Alliance, which provides services to seniors across the region.
"We met with them and were impressed and decided to go with them. The Worthington and Reynoldsburg shops decided to do the same thing," Mary said.
The Columbus Cancer Clinic is Medicare-certified and provides education about cancer prevention and early detection, head-to-toe cancer screenings, examinations and mammograms, regardless of patients' ability to pay. In 2011, the program served 3,469 clients providing 1,593 mammograms, 1,163 head-to-toe cancer screenings, and 713 clients with home care support services.
Linda Sharp, retired, who has been a volunteer for almost 10 years, said it feels good to give to the clinic because it helps people locally. "If someone needs a wig, because of their treatments, they can go there and get one."
Shirley Barnes of Grove City, recruited by Mary Crane, loved working the shop for 37 years. The second year, she was asked to be president and said they needed more help and they formed a board of volunteers. "We didn't even have a sign yet."
"We hoped to find a cure but didn't realize at the time there were so many types (of cancer), she said. "I believed in the cause."
The Grove City Thrift Shop, located off the north side of Stringtown Road at 3684 Garden Court, is not easy to find. But once you do, little treasures abound. It's not just about the trinkets or clothes you might find; it's the people who will help you. Volunteers are what make this trip worth it.
After a little shopping, I got easy answers to my question, "Why do you volunteer here?" The overriding answer is because cancer touched their lives. The volunteers are giving back.
Shirley says she always got more out of working at the shop than she put into it. "The stories customers would tell us about people in their lives with cancer, well I think they felt safe telling us. If we volunteered there, we must have compassion."
Betty Lewis of Columbus, a retired school secretary with South-Western City Schools, has volunteered since 1995. Her mother and mother-in-law had cancer.
Sue Shilling, of Mt. Sterling, said her husband and mother had cancer. She was a frequent shopper there but after retirement, she wanted to contribute to a worthy cause.
Dorothy Lanch, of Orient, has a little more than a year under her belt at the shop. "I felt like I'd been here for years the moment I walked in the door as a volunteer," she said. A friend died from cancer and breast cancer is in her family. "I wanted to do something worthwhile after working in the corporate world for 41 years," Dorothy said. She retired from Nationwide Insurance. "It's shattering to see someone retire and months later they are gone, just like that," she said, referring to her friend.
Sharon Downing of Grove City, a 37-year volunteer, said, "It's a business and there is a lot of background work these self-giving volunteers do. We have lost some volunteers to cancer and some of our volunteers are cancer survivors." Sharon and her family have struggled with the disease.
There are more than 50 shop volunteers with this passion to give back. I wish I could name them all, but that's not why they do this.
Mary said, "No matter what you do, or how you do it, or when you do it, you can help fight cancer."
For more information about donations, consignments or volunteering, call the Grove City Thrift Shop at 614-871-1126. Find out more about LifeCare Alliance at lifecare alliance.org.
Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News. Reach her at email@example.com.