Photo: East Texas Shop volunteers and employees standing at the shop entrance, ready to welcome Shared Blessings participants on Aug. 17. Pictured from left to right are volunteers Robbie Johnson, Terry Courtney, Sara Pennington, Beth Warkentin, Susan Haney, Assistant Manager Cat Janson, Charlette Levy, Linda Stahl, General Manger Karmen Kopriva, Jessica Henderson, LBSW, Director of Operations Nacogdoches, Liz Hensarling and Virginia Cunningham. (Photo by Kelly Daniel)
The Hospice of East Texas Shop named Small Business of the Year
by Kelly Daniel, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
A "creative fundraising" concept was the starting point that led to the opening of The Hospice of East Texas Shop in Nacogdoches. Because of its community involvement and leadership, the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce board of directors named The Hospice of East Texas Shop as Small Business of the Year.
Located at 1012 North St., the shop has visibility and convenient access that bring high-traffic. Locals can shop for home items, clothing, jewelry, tools, books, electronics and more. Donations are accepted, so recycling, reusing and repurposing are practiced daily.
Most might not realize that the business creates a number of additional benefits that spread throughout the community.
"The Hospice of East Texas is a non-profit organization, and we have to find unique ways to fund the services we provide for our patients and their families," said Jessica Henderson, Director of Operations in Nacogdoches. "The shop's mission is to create funding for people who need hospice care, but may not have the means to pay for that care."
Henderson realized that The Hospice of East Texas Shop in Henderson was doing well, and she believed that the same store would work in Nacogdoches. Together with Vice President of Community Relations Nancy Lamar, the vision was presented to the board of directors, and they approved.
The good location and reasonable lease agreement was secured with the help of George and Mark Clark. The building, formerly Hancock Fabrics, needed a good amount attention to get it to shopper-friendly standards.
"The space was an empty shell and required a lot of renovation and cleaning. During that time, the first General Manager Jammie Cole was my right hand," Henderson said, "and we spent a lot of hours, and invested our blood, sweat and tears preparing the space for the contractor to build the interior walls.
"Support came from individuals and businesses with monetary and in-kind donations," she said. "Belk department store should be thanked for the amount of help it provided with donated display items and the racks that we needed."
On October 21, 2011, The Hospice of East Texas Shop celebrated its grand opening with a Chamber ribbon cutting ceremony. It has operated successfully as a resale store, fulfilling its mission and following its business slogan "where shopping is giving." Since the business opened, the circle of the giving and the shopping has produced benefits that go beyond the County's borders.
Only two of the shop's employees are paid. The work that most see is done by volunteers. "Our volunteers are the heart of this business," Henderson said. "It takes passion and commitment. They take the items in, they sort, they repair, they merchandise on the floor and they are the ones that serve customers."
Linda Stahl works every Wednesday, and she made the decision to volunteer in the shop because The Hospice of East Texas has helped several of her friends. In the past 18 months, she formed friendships with customers and coworkers. "Some people shop on Wednesdays, because they know I'm here. Sometimes they will come back to the store to show me what they are wearing or how the clothes that they purchased here look on their children," she said. "The volunteers may have different jobs, but we all come to work with a big heart. We are all working for the same reason - to serve people."
Led by General Manager Karmen Kopriva and Assistant Manager Cat Janson, the volunteers' work is appreciated by a number of groups.
The Sheriff's office and G.O.D.T.E.L. receive needed toiletries through the shop. Social workers at Nacogdoches I.S.D. know to go to the shop if a student is in need of proper clothing or a coat. Cloth items that may not meet resale standards can be donated to the City's animal shelter, and the shop works with Charity Clothing and Shoes that provides donations to third world countries.
In the past five years, community partners have recognized the value of the shop and identified ways to broaden its service.
"About the time of our first anniversary, Patti Goodrum with Love INC (In The Name of Christ) invited us to partner with them in Shared Blessings. The program benefits school-age children needing back to school clothes and supplies. It also benefits the shop with a financial donation," Henderson said. "Love INC was holding the event in an auditorium-type setting, but Patti believed that our store could offer a real shopping experience. So, on Shared Blessings day, we close the shop to the public, and the kids come in with their parents or guardians. They get a voucher and are able to pick the things they like. This is a joyous occasion for us to see the excitement and expressions they have on their faces as they shop for the beginning of the school year."
Adding to the last three Shared Blessings events, Cary Cantu with Adventure Island Daycare began the Dane Shaw Shoe Drive, to ensure that every child would receive a new pair of shoes.
The Christian Women's Job Corp. (CWJC) also works with the shop to reward women preparing to enter the workplace. "At their graduation ceremony," Henderson explained, "the women are given gift certificates that they can use in our store to shop for professional clothes, shoes and accessories that will give them more confidence in starting their new jobs. It is a special gift and a great way to celebrate their accomplishments."
The shop offers a worksite location for the N.I.S.D. Life Skills students, who are learning job skills. According to Henderson "the interaction is an enjoyment for the shop volunteers. The Life Skills teachers come in with their students, and they all work together in the store."
During Regents Academy's The BIG Serve held in the spring of 2015, the school chose The Hospice of East Texas Shop as one of its service locations. "Being on the receiving end of a service project was a blessing for us," Henderson said. "The students built book shelves that replaced the variety of shelves we were using that had come in one-by-one. They custom-built nice, sturdy bookshelves that greatly improved that area of the store."
The shop is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Donations may be delivered at the back entrance and are only accepted during business hours. Henderson encourages anyone with an interest in becoming a shop volunteer to please call (936) 205-5982.
The circle of giving practiced at The Hospice of East Texas Shop produces an economic impact in the community, but the volunteers and others that benefit from the shop may agree that the greater profit is in the improvements it makes in people's lives.
The Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce 95th Annual Meeting and Membership Banquet begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the SFA Grand Ballroom. The 2016-2017 board of directors will be inducted and award recipients will be recognized.
The 2016 Citizens of the Year and the Gary Justice Business Excellence Awards recipients are:
Bronze sponsorships are available for $750 and include corporate recognition and seating for eight or nine. Individual admission tickets are available for $40. Contact the Chamber at (936) 560-5533 for reservations. Seating is limited, and the reservation deadline is Sept. 13.