Community Voices

Assistance League Thrift Store: The hidden gem

I met Donna Barnard on Saturday, November 12th to tour the thrift store. She was wearing a sweater and pants, an Assistance League Thrift Store outfit she bought. Donna introduced me to the President of Assistance League, Gayle Chiotte, who gave me a tour of the facilities.

The Assistance League of Fullerton (ALF) opened the thrift shop at 233 W. Amerige, Fullerton, in 1959, and it has been going strong since. It is staffed by ALF members and the Assisteens who only work on Saturday. I spoke with two Assisteens who had started volunteering there two years ago when they were 11 years-of-age. One said that it felt good seeing the benefits of bargains for customers.

The money from the thrift store benefits the community needs of not just Fullerton, but La Habra, Placentia, Brea, Yorba Linda, and Buena Park. For Thanksgiving there were baskets containing donated turkeys and all the trimmings provided by the Assisteens. Some of the assistance provided are monies for a shopping spree at Target for the purchase of school clothing and supplies, and for scholarships to high school students at LaVista. Monies are given in the form of scholarships to Fullerton Joint Union High School District students and California State University Fullerton. The students and their families in need are referred by the schools.

It was eleven o’clock on Saturday when I arrived, and the store was crowded with customers sorting through upgraded thrift clothing, purses, jewelry, books, housewares, art, purses, ornaments, games, dishes, glassware, and accessories. All items were neatly displayed, and I was drawn to an enclosed room which was added on last year that held many Christmas items. I could have spent hours looking around at all the items, and I couldn’t wait to shop!

A back room contains donated items which were being sorted, hung on hangers, and priced. Donations come from estate and garage sales, and what one member said, our grateful and faithful returning donors. Most donors and shoppers know of Assistance League Thrift Store by word of mouth. Perhaps with this article they will know more because of the Fullerton Observer. The secret is out!

I met a customer who came to the thrift store when she was a child with her mother and now her daughter comes here making it three generations of shoppers! One man was trying on a blue overcoat that looked brand new! Unhoused or what we used to call homeless people are given a free outfit.

Young people have also been drawn to shop thrift stores and buy items at a low price, e.g., $5 and resell it on the Internet websites such as Facebook Market and the app, Offer Up for $60. It is called “up-thrifting.”

I talked with regular customers, Anthony Apodaca and Lauren Ybama who were carrying an antique wooden bread box to purchase. They frequently shop here for furniture and other household items. As with other customers, they were excited about their bargain finds.

Next door at 223 W Amerige is the Operation School Bell (OSB) building containing uniforms, backpacks, and underwear for traditional kindergarten and elementary students. Hygiene items for high school students such as deodorant and tissue were requested by the schools for students. This program is operated by the Chairman of OSB, Ellie Westenhaver. On two of the walls are murals painted by Tony and Judi Trasport, longtime Fullerton artists. Meals on Wheels shares the building. Other ways the Assistance League of Fullerton raises funds is through the current benefit, “Sock it to Um” and the “Taste of the Town,” which will be held in Hanger 21 the first Saturday in June 2023. So put Assistance League Thrift Store at 233 W Amerige on your calendars for Tuesday, Thursday or/and Saturday from 10 am to 3pm for a “real treat.”

By the way, I bought a few items, and after my daughter and a friend read this article, they were excited to go to the Fullerton Assistance League Thrift Store! And remember that what you spend benefits people in need.