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“Community” is a word often overused and unwarranted, but when used in conjunction with the efforts of Havre de Grace’s American Legion post, “community” can become more than a word, it’s a focus.

On Jan. 27, 2009, Joseph L. Davis American Legion Post 47 in Havre de Grace opened the aptly named Post 47 Thrift Shop, as another way of servicing the community.

At 501 St. John St. in Havre de Grace, right next to the American Legion headquarters, the blue walls of the simple shop downplay the warmth of the hearts that devised and maintain it.

Lee Grove, manager of Post 47, said there are many people to thank for the thrift shop.

“I was a part of it, and still am, but it was really the commander’s idea,” Grove explained. “Through our commander, Tim Zeigler’s proposition, we all decided that the shop was an excellent way to help the post, as well as the community.”

Grove explained the general idea in creating the shop “was that with the current economy, thrift shops seem to be popping up everywhere and seem to be doing quite well because of the economy.”

“It seemed that people in the community were looking for things like that so we thought it would be a good idea,” he said.

Zeigler weighed in on his initial idea as a way to increase not just community presence for the post, but also to help the community focus on itself.

“I realized the utility that thrift shops could bring,” explained Zeigler, who chuckled at Grove’s deflection of the credit. “There are thousands of great things people can get from thrift shops on the cheap.”

“I was looking for something that we could do for the community, and there’s only a couple of other thrift shops in the area,” Zeigler said. “Plus, it helps us to raise money for the community events that we plan throughout the year.”

The shop is run by the legion and consists fully of volunteer helpers; no paid employees are involved.

One of the largest benefits of a full staff of volunteers, Zeigler said, is the low operating costs.

“Having such a small overhead allows for us to just get that money back into the community,” he said. “Our only overhead is the electric to keep the place running.”

Zeigler explained the revenue accrued from the shop is funneled directly into four sections of the legion’s community fund. The two major units are Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation and Children and Youth.

Both units are responsible for funding a wide variety of community events, from sports teams for children and scholarships for high school students’ college expenses to helping to donate to homeless shelters.

The revenue also goes toward specialty funds, such as a Christmas fund to supply holiday packages for children in need.

“At Christmastime, our honor guard gets a list of children in need from the schools,” Zeigler explained, “and they go and put together packages for the kids. The thrift shop helps to support all of those endeavors.”

Part of what makes the thrift shop so successful is the wide variety of goods available within its doors.

Ranging from clothing, household items and children’s toys to knickknacks, jewelry, dishes, stereos and furniture, and just about anything else one could imagine, the selection at the shop reflects the needs of the community for good reason.

Everything stocked on the shelves and laid out on the floor, and even the items that lie in wait on the second floor’s storage area, are all donated from the community, Zeigler said.

“Everything in the store is donated,” he said. “We buy nothing, and we get so many donations a month by really kind people that it’s just amazing.”

“We’ll get washers or dryers or ovens and we get them so quickly sometimes that we’ll cut them even cheaper just to get them into the community.”

Donna Kirkendall, who decorated the store and laid out the design for it, agrees.

“It’s almost as if we have an exchange here,” a laughing Kirkendall said. “The difference here is that all of the items we receive are donated, and the revenue we make is donated back out, so there’s no extra incentives other than to help people.”

Kirkendall practices what she preaches, often cutting deals with customers to allow them to make purchases.

“A lot of people that are just starting out will come down and pick up a love-seat or a sofa for a great price,” Zeigler said.

“We’ve got stories after stories of people that we’ve helped, and that have helped us, and as a result of our help, have gone on to help others,” Kirkendall said. “Does that make sense?”

“It’s getting around, how we really do help,” she added.

There is even a donation book, where those seeking certain items can request them, and when one becomes available, it can be held for them.

“She’s [Kirkendall] one of the brains behind the store, clearly,” Zeigler said. “She’s a driving force of the design of the store. She’s a real big part of the store and why it is what it is, as well as is Tim Cantymagli, the shop manager.”

“He handles the volunteer scheduling,” Zeigler added, “and when there’s no one that can cover a shift, he’ll be right out there working it himself.”

The history of the garage that comprises the shop is as interesting as the people who run it.

“Its a garage, sort of, wedged into the building,” Zeigler said. “It doesn’t sound very pretty, but we used to have the American Legion Ambulance Corps stationed here, and about 20 years ago they asked to detach from us and formed the Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps. So, we turned it into the shop, and as a result, the shop is right next to our building.”

The look hasn’t turned away shoppers, many who visit on a weekly basis.

“It is very crowded, and the community loves it,” Lee Grove said. “Sometimes there are days where we open up and no one comes out, but that’s been recently as a result of ... all of this snow. It’s affected all businesses, not just ours.”

“We have a lot of repeat customers — people that come once a week,” Zeigler said. “We look for people on certain days to come out, and people tell me that they think it’s a great service to the community.”

“I tell them right back that it’s worth their while to keep this supported, because it benefits them down the road as well.”

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