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A thrift shop friendship

Military spouses bond over savings

Julie Maddry (left) and Kelli Weinerth share a love of thrift shopping. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Fort Lewis Thrift Shop assistant managers Julie Maddry and Kelli Weinerth are well versed in the art of thrift shopping. What started as a hobby has become a full-time job for the two military spouses.

The two met when they first moved here. Weinerth moved from Camp Walker in Daegu, South Korea, where she managed the base thrift shop, The Apple Tree. Maddry managed the Fort Irwin, California, thrift shop. They became friends when they started their jobs at the Fort Lewis Thrift Shop over the summer. The store is closed during the month of July to allow time to process the vast amounts of inventory received during the summer transition, and Maddry and Weinerth spent day after day sorting large piles of donations that reached almost as high as the ceiling.

"I can honestly say Julie and I knew each other's life story by the end of that month," Weinerth said.

On their off hours, they enjoy going to local thrift shops looking to score that great deal.  They both mentioned Goodwill's upscale boutique, Blue, as a local favorite.  When it comes to the best options for military families and retirees, Maddry and Weinerth recommend post thrift shops first.

"Post thrift shops in general would be my first choice," Weinerth said. "The quality at the post thrift shop is very high. They have the items that you need and won't find off post.  When you move, you drop items off at the thrift shop that you don't want to travel with, and more than likely, you can find something similar when you arrive at your new post ... You might find valances specifically made for the windows in military housing."

"The first thing I look for when I move is the post thrift shop," Maddry added. "The Thrift Shop has best wishes for military families at its heart.  I find prices are less than half of what local thrift stores charge."

One of the best parts of thrift shopping is scoring the ultimate deal.  Maddry snagged a pair of Frye boots that retail for $500 for $8.99.  Weinerth's best deal was $5 for a Tiffany & Co Bean Necklace that retails for $145. Although these are great deals, they pale in comparison to a recent Fort Lewis Thrift Shop customer's find: He purchased a consigned collectable coin for $40, which he then sold for $2,000.

Supporting the Fort Lewis Thrift Shop also supports the local military community.  

"Everything outside of operating funds goes directly back to the military community through scholarships and community welfare requests," Maddry explained.

"This year, we plan to give out over $100,000.  Our largest donations go to the Fort Lewis Family Member Scholarship," Weinerth said. "The contribution for 2017 is $40,000.  We also are funding a $15,000 scholarship for a military spouse. The total donation for 2017 is  $55,000 towards scholarships."

Fort Lewis Thrift Shop, Open 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays-Thursdays, 2070 Pendleton Ave., Joint Base Lewis-McChord, 253.982.2468

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