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McChord thrift shop offers some of everything

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine Spc. Sarah Rubianes, Madigan Army Medical Center, checks out the clearance room at the McChord Field Thrift Shop April 28. The thrift shop is located at Building 717 and is open Tuesday through Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m

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There aren't many stores Dayna Zion can rely on that sell the original Star Wars figurines her son collects. Other than eBay and the occasional lucky find at garage sales, Zion goes to the McChord Field Thrift Shop to peruse a massive collection of not only Star Wars-related items, but nearly any item needing a new home.

The McChord Field Thrift Shop is a great place for her to find everyday items and save money in the process. For instance, she recently stopped by the store to pick up a new gamer chair for her 10-year-old, an alarm clock for her 13-year-old, eight picture frames for some artistic black-and-white photos she shot, boxes and containers to stay organized and a pair of shoes for her. The bill? $16. The price Zion said she probably would pay at Fred Meyer? Nearly $100. That's the average savings customers can expect at what is possibly the largest thrift shop in the Air Mobility Command, according to the McChord Officer Spouses' Club, which manages the facility.

A quick jaunt around the store shows the level of dedication of the 51 volunteers who devote several days a week to stocking shelves, tagging items, helping consigners fill out contracts and providing excellent service to customers. The thrift shop is a nonprofit organization that sells consigned or donated items to anyone with access to the base. Items include children's clothes, knickknacks, uniforms, furniture, toys and jewelry - think Goodwill, but with all proceeds benefiting the military. Consigners keep 80 percent of the sale, and the thrift shop gets the other 20 percent. All sales from donations are kept by the thrift shop.

Last year, $50,000 went to various McChord and Air Force-specific organizations like the Air Force Village, Fisher House and the McChord Red Cross. The Officer Spouses' Club scholarship program apportioned $25,000 to high school seniors and college-enrolled spouses thanks to the money earned through the thrift shop. The first Saturday of each month is the "Bag Sale," during which shoppers buy a 30-gallon trash bags for $5 and stuff as many donated items into the bag as they can.

"It's important that we give back to the community, and we couldn't do it without our volunteers," said Leslie Long, president of the McChord Officer Spouses' Club.

Thomas and Kriselda Goody have been retired for several years now, so volunteering at the thrift shop lets them stay active and help other military families. Kriselda has been volunteering off and on since 1972, and takes great pride in ensuring donated items are clean and serviceable. She takes home clothing articles and washes or mends them if they need sprucing up. Thomas spends most of his volunteering time determining the price of the items, applying the tags and finding the right location on the sale floor to get the item sold.

"Even if I was in a wheelchair, I'd still come back here to volunteer," Thomas said.

McChord's Thrift Shop may just be the Pacific Northwest's stationary version of the Antique Roadshow - because servicemembers travel all over the world, you never know what might be found at the store. A few weeks ago, a customer purchased an agate apple for $8 that potentially could have sold for $100 on eBay, said Officer Spouses' Club Representative Sharon Fardell.

"People bring jewelry and family heirlooms from all over the world, and customers love to tell us stories when they find an item," Fardell said.

The downturn of the economy has driven more traffic to the thrift shop. People are bargain-hunting more, and it's not just active duty and retired Air Force personnel; Soldiers and their families are making their way over to see what deals exist as well.

"People are using their resources more, and that includes coming to us," Fardell said. Children's clothing typically goes out the door more often in late summer before school starts up. Men's T-shirts and work shirts are more popular for yard work. And servicemembers can save a ton on pre-owned uniforms and military gear.

"Our items are excellent and it's so much fun to come in and shop," Long said.

Donations are always accepted by the thrift shop; nothing gets wasted. If they can't sell it, they donate it to Goodwill or a local mission. Other donated items go to the Airmen's Attic program, where in emergencies like household goods not arriving, Airmen can get what they need to tide them over at the shop and receive vouchers for their purchase from the Airman and Family Readiness Center. Volunteer Joan Wasserstrom has loved that part of her job for 35 years now - making people smile because they found what they were looking for at her shop. A scholarship from the Officer Spouses' Club is given in her name.

"It is so much fun to just be here, and that's why I keep coming back," Wasserstrom said.

It's the volunteers that keep Zion coming back, because she considers them part of her family.

"They are good, honest, hard-working people trying to give back," she said.

The retired Army National Guard Soldier's spouse has been patronizing the thrift shop for six years now, and comes two to three times a month. She loves the people and the deals, and passes that love on to her six children. One of her sons loves going to the thrift shop so much, Zion plans a trip there after his doctor appointments.

"He is just as much a bargain hunter as me," she said.

Zion recommends the McChord Field Thrift Shop to anyone trying to stretch their dollar as far as they can.

"Places like this gives us an opportunity to find things we normally couldn't afford," she said. "It's just a good place that supports its own."

If you go

  • The McChord Field Thrift Shop is located at Building 717 and is open Tuesday through Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the first Saturday of each month, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours of consignment are Tuesday through Thursday and the first Saturday of each month, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
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