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Eight thrift shop volunteers combine for over 170 years of giving

Anna Swab, left, Fort Lewis Thrift Shop volunteer, assist customers shopping for antiques March 2. Photo credit: Talysa Lloyd McCall

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - There's something to say about those who dedicate their lives giving back to others, especially when done out of the kindness of their heart.

That's just what the eight, long-term volunteers assigned to the Fort Lewis Thrift Shop have done. With a combined contribution of over 170 years, the Fort Lewis Thrift Shop volunteers offer an array of talent, experience and wisdom.

"Having long-term volunteers is really important, because they've been here through so much," said Rebecca Parsons, Fort Lewis Thrift Shop manager. "They have a lot of experience with seeing what does work and what does not work, so they are able to help new volunteers as well as new managers. Customers really get to know our volunteers and they come in not just to shop, but for that conversation piece as well."

Those eight volunteers with their years of service to the thrift shop are:

Jerry (Miko) Wade, 44 years
Anna Swab, 24 years
Joanne Churchill, 30 years
Diane Anderson, 16 years
Lujeanna Taylor, 14 years
Lynda Clark, 12 years
Carol Seidl, 12 years
John Seidl, 12 years
Don Swab, 10 years

Most of the volunteers are military affiliated, having either served in some capacity or are the spouse of a retired service member.

"I initially started out as an employee at the thrift shop while my husband was active duty here," Churchill said. "After he retired, it became a way of staying active."

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. Everyone has their own reasons for volunteering.

For some, it's a sense of connecting with others. For others, it strengthens their ties with the community and broadens their support network, exposing them to people with common interests, neighborhood resources and fun and fulfilling activities.

"We as a group have known each other for quite some time," Anna Swab said. "We look forward to coming in on our shift and seeing each other."

For others, it may be a sense of belonging to something greater than yourself.

"To be a part of an organization that gives so much back to the service members, makes all the years worth it," Wade said, who first volunteered at the thrift shop in 1978. "I am attached to the mission of giving back to the military community."

The Fort Lewis Thrift Shop, as well as the McChord Field Thrift Shop, donate funds to military spouse, high school and community scholarships. They also donate to backpacks for kids, food drives, churches and local service members in need.

"A major part of our philanthropic mission is providing employment for military spouses," Parsons said. "Another part is scholarships for military dependents, we have our own scholarship, and we give to the JBLM Family Scholarship Fund, funds to the USO, funds to the chaplain service for Ham Grenade and Thanksgiving turkeys and many more."

There are a variety of volunteer opportunities at the thrift shop, some that people would be surprised to know.

"When people initially think about thrift shop volunteering, they think about the little ladies that are behind the counter to check them out," said John Seidl. "There are so many more opportunities in the back of the house."

Aside from being a cashier, some of the volunteers also help with marketing, payroll and accounting, information technology work, logging donations and even repairs.

"I'll come in and work on a few radios, computers and other electronics during the day," Taylor said. "It's therapeutic for me to be able to fix something and make it work again."

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