About 10 years ago Joe Hess stopped by the Iola Senior Citizens, Inc., bargain shop at 223 S. State to buy a shirt. He walked out with 20 shirts that cost him $1 — total.
“I couldn’t believe that I could buy that many shirts, really good shirts, for $1,” Hess told Allen County commissioners Tuesday morning when updating them on the building, which the county owns. “They were at least $20 shirts.”
The bargain shop hasn’t escaped inflation. Today shirts are 20 cents each.
“We sell good jeans for a quarter and you can buy a suit for 50 cents,” said Hess, now a volunteer at the store every Wednesday.
During 2009, the bargain shop had sales totaling $29,000 — that’s several truckloads of jeans and shirts — and contributed $21,000 to charity. Hess said $5,000 went to the Church Utility Relief Board, which helps the needy with utility bills. Contributions also were made to the Community Food Pantry, Hope Unlimited, Faith House in Chanute and several elementary classes to help with little extras teachers like to buy to entice kids to study harder. Donations also are made to help victims of fires and floods.
The remaining $8,000 was spent on maintenance, utilities and a monthly meal for the 20 volunteers who work regularly at the bargain shop.
“We work from half a day to two days and last year had a more than 9,000 volunteer-hours,” Hess said. “I like to call it a recycling center of things people need.”
IOLA SENIOR Citizens, Inc. started in the late 1970s in the old fire barn at 117 W. Madison Ave.
“Then, $3 or $4 dollars of sales in a day were considered pretty good,” Hess said. “Last year it was between $100 and $200 a day.”
Merchandise comes from donors, and not just Iolans. Hess said donations came from out-of-state and buyers also flock to the shop from as far away as several states.
“We get more than just clothes donated,” Hess said. “We get appliances, kitchen stuff, furniture and books. Things change from day to day. You never know what you’re going to find.”
Maybe even a wife.
A decade ago when Hess dropped by to look for a shirt, he also met a woman who has been Jeanette Hess since shortly thereafter.
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