New to You thrift shop volunteers making a difference since 1953

FERGUS – In 1953, The Hospital Auxiliary, now known as Groves Hospital Volunteer Association (GHVA), opened their Opportunity Shop on Tower Street, just north of St. Andrew St. 

GHVA volunteer historian Jude Dowling said that there have been several locations of “The Op Shop” (renamed New to You in 2011), including the former police station, and a location on St. Andrew Street “that burned down in 1973. 

“The New to You in the old police station closed on the 13th of September in 2014, and there was a week in between the closing of one and the opening of the current one,” Dowling said.

“The volunteers did a lot of the upgrades inside the new building.”

Dowling said GHVA got a lot of help from trade and construction people, many of whom “donated their labour free of charge.

“Some of the electrical work was done by the husbands (of volunteers),” she added.

GHVA is in the planning stage of a rebuild of the store that will see it doubled in size (to be located at the current site). Once again, many volunteers will be involved in the process.

New to You thrift shop manager Clare Palmer has been with GHVA for almost 10 years. “I am so honoured to work alongside some of the most amazing individuals within our community,” she said.

Palmer noted that volunteer roles range from receiving and sorting donations by department, cleaning, merchandising and pricing items, working cash, packing and floating, to helping clients find items.

“We have a volunteer maintenance team. I say team, but it is actually one incredible volunteer, Terry McKee,” Palmer said.

New to You’s annual Fashion Show models are all volunteers. The popular event will be held on April 23 at The Fergus Legion. Doors open at 6pm.

Through her experience and conversations with volunteers, Palmer said she has been shown how important volunteering at NTY has been to them. 

“Not only is it a feeling of giving back to the community and raising money for our community hospital, but it’s also a great opportunity for our volunteers to socialize and build friendships and to feel part of a wonderful and supportive team,” Palmer said.

Many volunteers like Carol and Wayne Bridle, Trudy Gansekoele, Pam Horricks and Lee Thorne have been involved with New to You for over 20 years.

Thorne recalled that when he moved to the area many years ago, he noticed a sign for The Opportunity Shop. Curious, he went in. He learned that “donations of clothes, electronics, and miscellaneous items were accepted.

“They priced and sold items and the money went to the hospital. I saw many items just needing a nut, bolt or screw being thrown (out),” Thorne said. 

He wanted to help “so that more money could go to the hospital.” 

“The next day I began a six-day-a-week adventure repairing items.” More than 25 years later, he’s still at it two days a week specializing  in watches and clocks. “

Thorne said, “I like the camaraderie and fellowship of the volunteers at NTY.”

Trudy Gansekoele said that after her children were in school, she wanted to do volunteer work. She started at three days a week, and now over 25 years later, she works two days a week.

“I enjoy the work and the people,” she said.

Jane Douglas, who has volunteered for over 10 years said, “It is a wonderful place to fill your time. I work with a great group of loving and caring people. They have become my family and we have great times together.” 

Palmer noted, “Our volunteers are a true inspiration to myself and our staff for the hours they dedicate to their roles and for the hospital.”

Lorie Black