I love going to the Abaco Cancer Society Thrift Shop on Saturday mornings. The air-conditioned shop is located behind the Abaco Groceries store on the Airport Road, opens its doors at 10 sharp, and stays open until 1. As you enter you will find books to your right and the check-out counter to your left. A dozen or so tables have been put together to form two large counters containing clothing. Along the right hand and back walls is shelving with assorted oddments while clothing racks for both men and women dominate the left side. The final display is a costume jewellery counter and then you are the check-out counter where Cheryl Andrews and Christine Sawyer are cheerfully waiting to pack your goodies and give you the bill, which is never much but must be paid in notes, not coins.
Too fast a circuit for you? Let’s go around again, a little more slowly this time.
The bookshelves hold volumes of catholic taste from romance potboilers to Pulitzer prizewinning novels. Alongside are stacks of CDs and movie DVDs that are also wide-ranging in type and content. Paperback books are two for a dollar while hardbacks are a dollar each. Obviously, reading is encouraged. Last year I started reading a hardback mystery – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – I had bought for one dollar only to discover the book was on President Obama’s summer vacation reading list during the next week. The Thrift Shop allowed me to beat him to it.
I am a sucker for bric a brac and cannot resist the neat items that appear on the oddments shelves. Most of the items are ornamental but sometimes they are dramatically useful. For years I have been trying to buy a food scale in Marsh Harbour because British cookbooks give their recipes by weight. In July of this year I finally found one, new and in its shrink plastic wrap, capable of weighing up to five pounds, at the extravagant price of $4. Last year I came across two black and three colour HP ink cartridges – in their unopened original cartons – that fitted one of my printers. That’s over $200 of ink I bought for $5. Such serendipitous moments put bounce into your step.
The first clothes table is mostly children’s wear and with the cost of living these days and the rate children outgrow their clothing I am sure the Thrift Shop is a blessing to mothers. When Christmas nears this table gets filled with a wide variety of seasonal ornaments. There’s a large shoe box on the floor at the end of the table and this gets emptied very quickly each week. Keep your eyes open because sometimes there are framed paintings, many of them originals, leaning face in against the walls.
The second table is adult clothing, mostly for women it seems to me. So many jeans! Clothing items cost $3 each but I believe the formal wear that hangs on the racks must be a little more expensive. On the men’s racks are jackets and shirts that sometimes have the original price tag and packaging creases.
I know nothing about the jewellery counter except that it is very popular leading up to events such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. I see no diamond bracelets but plenty of everyday earrings. One thing I do know: the Thrift Shop is the only place in Marsh Harbour I can take my grandchildren and let them buy anything they want.
The Thrift Shop has been supported by members of the Haitian communities since its inception and to this day they provide most of the customers. White faces were few and far between. Years ago I chatted to one of them at the bookshelves, a young lady who was an ex-student of mine. “I’m only here for the books,” she felt compelled to explain. I looked at her hand holding a small porcelain tray. “Oh, I couldn’t resist this. It’s Limoges, you see.” And so it started. Now the Thrift Shop is supported by customers from all social and economic strata in Abaco. And they have fun.
But the Thrift Shop was not designed for fun. Its purpose is to provide solace and financial assistance to those requiring treatment for cancer. Almost thirty years ago the Abaco Cancer Society began as a branch of the Cancer Society of The Bahamas in Nassau. It was started by a small group of like-minded people wanting to create a way to help the ever growing number of Abaco citizens battling cancer. Founding members included Hugh and Sylvia Cottis, Veronica Saunders, Dr. Vincent McWeeney, and Marjolein Scott. Veronica and Marjolein have been on the board of the Abaco Cancer Society ever since.
The money raised by the Thrift Shop is used to assist the many people on Abaco fighting cancer. It helps to pay for flights, hotel rooms, medicine, treatment, rehabilitation – whatever is needed during the course of the illness. The number of patients is staggering and the amount of assistance miraculous. The Society asks nothing in return but always hopes the recipients will find a way to pass on their good fortune to those that follow in their footsteps.
The Society is particularly appreciative of the help they receive from Ian Roberts, the owner of Abaco Groceries, and Randy Key, who owns the building which houses the Thrift Shop. Donated items can be left at Abaco Groceries for safekeeping and collection by the Society. Randy Key generously provides the property rent free.