Every Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., residents of Naples, Florida converge upon Vi at Bentley Village to peruse the unique items for sale at the community’s Thrift Shop.
“A very nice compliment I heard was that we really shouldn’t call this a thrift shop because it’s more like a gift shop,” said Mrs. Louise Owens, thrift shop manager at Vi at Bentley Village.
The beautiful artwork, rare collectibles, fine china, Waterford® crystal, as well as the clothing, furniture and appliances for sale have all been donated by Vi at Bentley Village residents. Shoppers come in for the treasures, but stay for the friendly atmosphere.
“We have a man cave full of electronics, tools and sporting goods so the husbands have a place to congregate while their wives are shopping. And it doesn’t hurt that we always have cookies too.”
What started 25 years ago as a rummage sale has grown into a highly coordinated volunteer effort that has raised over $2 million dollars in total, including $133,000 last year. All of the money goes to the Friends of Bentley Village, a resident committee that funds a variety of clubs and groups within the community.
“We support everything from our camera club and plant house to providing books for the book club and fresh flowers for the dining tables each week. But what I’m most proud of are the programs that help the Vi at Bentley Village employees. We have a literacy program, offer interest-free loans, and provide a stipend for passing citizenship tests.”
It takes Mrs. Owens and her team three days to prepare for Friday’s hours of operation. The work begins on Tuesday mornings, when they categorize and evaluate the inventory collected over the weekend. “Everything has to be sorted, cleaned and priced.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, volunteers come in to place and rearrange the items in the store. “We change our displays every week, and we also have a seasonal calendar. For instance, we had three weeks of Easter displays and now we’re preparing our red, white and blue items for the 4th of July. We have Fall and Christmas treasures for sale, and they’re much more reasonably priced than department stores.”
86 volunteers in total – all residents – make the shop run year-round. “It’s definitely a team effort.”
According to Community Relations Manager Pam Fultz, volunteering at the Thrift Shop gives residents a sense of belonging. “We have active, engaged residents who live here and volunteering is such a wonderful way to meet people and get involved,” said Fultz. “The Thrift Shop gives residents a feeling of ownership and enhances sense of community at Vi at Bentley Village.”
At the end of the day, it’s a labor of love for Mrs. Owens and her team of volunteers. “It’s a lot of work, but we have a lot of fun.”