WEST BARNTABLE — When does shopping for a coffee table or set of dishes for one’s home become a double positive – for the purchaser as well as another, often anonymous beneficiary?
This double-good effect can be the happy result of a purchase from the Cape Cancer Thrift Shop in West Barnstable, according to volunteers who donate time each week at the attractive gray-shingled shop set amid trees and lawn on Route 6A.
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Board member Wendy LaPine said it has a lot to do with “the personal connection” and camaraderie that come from interacting with customers and cancer patients on a daily basis.
Sales support cancer patients
Fellow board member Donna Sago, who sets up the shop’s work schedule, says that time spent working there is amply rewarded. “It’s such a nice feeling,” to be there, she said, knowing each sale benefits those who have been impacted by the disease. All the shop’s volunteers donate the hours they work as part of their own contribution to the cause.
Diane St. Our, who is in a four-year remission from a rare type of brain cancer, recently joined the thrift shop volunteer staff and also maintains its Facebook page.
“I love this place,” she said. “It’s my support system.”
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The store donates every cent of its income after expenses to Massachusetts-based cancer organizations dedicated to research, treatment and wellness therapies, providing help to local cancer patients, according to Maryann Crossley, the thrift shop’s longtime manager.
Approximately two-thirds of the store’s income goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which maintains a collaborative partnership with Cape Cod Healthcare in its vital research and treatment. One-third is earmarked for the Hyannis-based Cape Wellness Collaborative, which since 2014 has offered help and integrated therapies to qualifying Cape patients in the form of gift cards to be used for services such as acupuncture, massage, yoga and nutrition advice, all provided by local practitioners.
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The Wellness Collaborative also distributes meals to needy patients and school backpacks to young cancer patients in need of school supplies, LaPine said.
Halfway through 2022, Crossley said, Cape Cancer Thrift Shop has donated more than $28,000 to Dana-Farber, $19,000 to the Wellness Collaborative, as well as about $2,000 to veterans on Cape Cod who are cancer patients.
Special donations are also given to other cancer organizations during the year, often in honor of a local community member. One such patient is Gary Conway, of Centerville, who’s been in remission from cancer for six years, recently the more than 80-mile Cape Cod “leg” of this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon.
Cancer survivors among volunteers
In 2016, Conway underwent surgery for brain cancer, including targeted, long-term treatment at Dana-Farber. That year a thrift shop fundraiser raised $10,000 for brain cancer research that was matched by another benefactor, sending an additional gift of $20,000 to Dana-Farber in Conway’s name.
During his treatment and subsequent remission, Conway volunteered his time helping transport donated items for the thrift shop.
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“I can’t say enough about their tireless efforts … what they do and how they do it,” Conway said.
As with many other businesses, the arrival of COVID has meant some changes in the way the thrift shop operates. Over the past several years, local estate sale agencies had worked in tandem with the shop, giving a major boost to its inventory by inviting thrift shop personnel to come in at the end of an estate event and take a selection of unsold items for sale at the shop. It was a popular practice that resulted in savvy shoppers arriving early the following week to snap up the estate items at bargain prices, Crossley said.
COVID, however, changed the way many estate sales are being carried out. Most are now held online, thus halting the flow of leftover items to the thrift shop. Now, the shop almost entirely on individual donations to add to its inventory, LaPine said.
Shop features furniture, jewelry, decor
After the more than 50-year-old shop moved to its present West Barnstable location in the early 2000s, the look of its inventory began to change. With Crossley at the helm as manager, the shop started reinventing its image, from one that sold older furniture and antiques to the airy, bright, upscale shop in evidence today, which Crossley describes as “more like a gift shop than a thrift shop. ”
Existing stock, she said, was gradually replaced with like-new items such as wall art, decorative bowls, kitchenware and table settings that share space with in-demand furniture such as tables, benches, cabinets and hutches. Responding to customer demand, an in-store jewelry display has grown from one small case to an entire wall. Upstairs storage space has morphed into an additional sales floor, displaying smaller items such as household linens and lamps.
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According to Crossley, 2021 was the store’s “best year yet,” with $134,000 in sales.
The shop, says Crossley, continues to be a popular destination for thrift shoppers, with many longtime customers and a yearly influx of out-of-state visitors. “People feel like they’re doing something good” when they can donate to a worthy cause at the same time as making a purchase. Another plus, she said: “We’re open on Mondays.”
Cape Cancer Thrift Shop is located at 1085 Route 6A in West Barnstable. Hours are 10 am to 3 pm Monday through Saturday. More information: 508-479-6233, https://www.facebook.com/CapeCancerThriftShop/