By Barbara King
Are you constantly on the hunt for quality items at bargain prices? How would you like to find incredible treasures and at the same time make a difference in our community?
Hangers of Hope is the thrift shop with a remarkable difference. The 12,000 square foot building in the Old English Village, at 3500 South Broadway, is a store with a purpose. Proceeds from the store benefit the Bethesda Health Clinic, bringing healing, health and hope to the working uninsured in Smith County. The clinic opened its doors in 2003, and since its inception has served more than 11,000 patients with affordable, high quality medical and dental care. The clinic has expanded its primary services to include gastroenterology, gynecology, podiatry, orthopedics, psychology, physical therapy, ophthalmology, endocrinology, rheumatology, pulmonary, neurology, nephrology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, EMG, diabetes, radiology and lab work. The clinic recently broke ground for a 2,000 square foot expansion to accommodate dental services.
Now back to the shopping… the store is a pleasure to browse. Celebrating a year in business this month, displays are artfully designed and items are clearly priced. This is definitely high end resale merchandise, and you can spot a Liz Claiborne dress with the original tag marked down to a 1/3 of the original price, next to a Dooney & Bourke handbag. There are dressing rooms available for trying on your bargains and all sales are final. Valerie Brehn, the passionate and effusive store manager explains, “we bring out 5 new racks of merchandise daily so every time you shop, there will be new treasures.”
You can find everything from furniture and books to housewares, accessories and of course affordable men’s, women’s, children’s and plus sizes. The fun is in the finding, and as assistant store manager Susana Cuevas says, “you can be lucky and find a two piece men’s suit for $19.99, or a designer dress for $14.99 – you have to have time and patience and come by often!”
The store values its community partnerships, and credits the shelving and display areas to assistance from Brookshire Grocery Company, John Soules Foods and The East Texas Medical Center. It’s evident that a lot of love and care goes into the eye-catching and appealing store staging and merchandising and the staff explain that the joy comes from knowing the positive benefits of donations and proceeds.
Donations fuel the store, and you can drop them off anytime the store is open from Monday through Saturday from 9am to 7pm. Just drive up to the side door, ring the bell and someone will come out to help you unload. The beauty of it is that the store will accept your valued donations as is, you don’t have to put your items on hangers, just bring them in and fill out a tax form and you’ve given back to people who need and deserve help. Even soiled and slightly damaged clothes will be accepted, as they are salvageable and shipped to 3rd world countries. The store gets reimbursed by the pound with proceeds once again assisting the working uninsured.
If you’re a bit skeptical how your donations can make a difference, meet store employee Brandi Robison. She willingly shares her story of domestic abuse and the fact that she “was truly at the lowest point in my life when I went to the clinic, I was really at rock bottom.” Needing dental and medical assistance, going through a divorce, jobless and not knowing where to turn, she told her story to Beverly Castleberry, a Bethesda clinic employee, who was so moved that she had Brandi tell the Bethesda Board about her struggles. “I was so afraid that they would judge me and my situation, but from day one they treated me like family.”
Brandi was ready to turn her life around, and with the help of the clinic she became an employee of the thrift store. Today, the joy of being part of the ministry that changed her life radiates when she tells of going back to school to get her GED and the opportunity to have the hand and dental surgery she needs.
“I do have my bad days,” she admits “but it’s getting easier to carry the positive feelings I have working here at the store into the other areas of my life.”
Pennye Rhodes is both a frequent donor and shopper. As a case manager at Trinity Mother Frances Health System, she “understands the need because we frequently refer patients to the Bethesda Clinic.” She shops at the store because “it’s convenient, clean, very well-organized and the quality of the items are excellent.” As a single parent on a budget, she appreciates the value and variety of merchandise.
To celebrate their 1st year anniversary, Hangers of Hope will be hosting an in-store party November 21st from 5-7pm with punch and light snacks. Shoppers wearing a Hangers of Hope t-shirt (which can be ordered through the store) will receive 20% off their purchases.
Maybe the most important element of the store is the staff and volunteers who empower, motivate and challenge each other because they realize the incredible good that comes from their hard work.
As Valerie explains, “if you really want to understand why we are here, visit and tour the Clinic and meet the physicians who volunteer their time and expertise.”
I left Hangers of Hope with some new friends and my own personal mission to clean out closets and donate to a ministry that changes lives.
Hangers of Hope is located at 3500 S. Broadway in Tyler. Store hours are 9am to 7pm, Monday through Saturday and can be reached at (903)944-7880. You can also find them on Facebook at hangersofhope and at www.hangersofhope.com.
Bethesda Health Clinic is located at 409 W. Ferguson, Tyler, (903)596-8353 and at www.bethesdaclinic.org.