Fantastic Finds

Assistance League members Carolann Sternberg, Marie Fischer, Holly Liebig and Claudia Dooley

If you can’t wait to get a taste of spring, then you’re in luck! Fantastic Finds, the upscale resale boutique staffed by volunteers for Assistance League St. Louis, has just done a little spring cleaning (and restocking) in preparation for the warm weather ahead.

The shop is fully stocked with gently used, donated items ranging from women’s, men’s and children’s clothing—including designer labels—to accessories, home décor, furniture, dishes, books and toys. “We have taken the shop to an upscale level,” notes Karen Vinyard, chair of Fantastic Finds. “Whenever I leave the shop, I always take one last look around and think, How darling is this? And our customers are devoted to us, as well.” To make sure that each item in the shop really is a ‘fantastic find’ for those dedicated supporters, the staff has a high standard for the quality of donations that are sold there, she adds. “If part of a donation is not quite up to our standard, if it’s a little too worn, we donate it to Salvation Army. We do not waste anything, not even a paperclip!”

The shop—like all of Assistance League’s programs—is completely staffed by volunteers. It takes some 35 members to run it, from working on the floor to pricing and preparing merchandise for sale. “The volunteers are amazing women,” Vinyard says. “I’ve never worked with such smart, professional women in my life.” From members with a background in retail who specialize in displaying merchandise, to pricing experts, sewing mavens and technologically savvy members who produce an email flyer, everyone’s contributions are vital, she says.

With input from those skilled members, Fantastic Finds supplies more than $250,000 annually for Assistance League. “The shop supplies 30 percent of our funds,” says Vicki Kearney, president of Assistance League. “Those individuals who donate know the funds are going back to the community.” And they do so in the form of Assistance League’s programs, which primarily focus on women and children.

For instance, Operation School Bell provides school uniforms for children in need. “This year, we have provided new school uniforms to about 3,500 children so far,” Kearney says. Since its inception, the program has dressed more than 50,000 children. Another program, Steps to Success, provides new athletic shoes for deserving students. Project ROSE provides personal care and household items for women and their children in shelters; while Operation Hug delivers Teddy bears to children and adults in traumatic situations.

In all, Assistance League’s members volunteer more than 51,000 hours each year, serving 32,000 people in the St. Louis region. But it wouldn’t be possible without the funds raised at Fantastic Finds. “It takes a lot to run the shop,” Kearney says. “The volunteers are very dedicated to what they do, because they’re dedicated to our mission—which is giving back to the community.”

So if you’re ready for a new spring wardrobe, remember that a new top, skirt or purse for you also can mean a lot of good to your neighbors in need. You never know what your next ‘fantastic find’ will be!

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