Beating the Holiday Shopping Blues

How to Save Time and Money, Surprise Family and Friends, and Do Good for Others

Falls Church, Virginia; Dec. 9, 2021: Are higher prices, fewer choices, and picked-over shelves putting a damper on your holiday spirit and a dent in your wallet? Well, there’s a more creative approach to stuffing those stockings that will save you time and money, delight your gift recipient, and help someone in need…all at the same time.

It’s called Capital Caring Health’s (CCH) Thrift Store. And it features a wide range of high-quality men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, jewelry, art, books, CDs, small household goods, and more at bargain prices.

Proceeds allow Capital Caring Health to provide advanced/palliative and end-of-life care, free of charge, for the uninsured and others in our area who can’t afford the valuable and much-needed service.

“Over my 10 years of volunteering with the Thrift Store, I’ve seen everything from a Louis Vuitton belt, to a designer jacket from Neiman Marcus, to a Dooney & Burke bag, all with the original tags,” says Novice Nelson of North Arlington. A jack-of-all trades, Nelson often puts in 35 hours a week at the Falls Church institution, sorting through and pricing donations, placing items on the floor and helping customers with their selections.

“When something is new with tags, we start off by marking it down 50%, right from the get-go,” the former stockbroker says. “For previously used goods, we evaluate the item’s condition and, as much as we can, authenticity, and then estimate what we think is a fair price.”

At the Thrift Store, a “fair price” can be jaw-droppingly low. Especially on Tuesdays—Senior Days—when everything in the store is an additional 25% off.

“I recently bought a Keurig coffee maker for $1 for a young acquaintance who was moving into her first apartment,” says Mary Myhill, who relocated to Alexandria from Florida in 2014 with her husband. A self-declared collector, Myhill goes out of her way to frequent the store on a regular basis. “I’ve found some real buys there: a lovely lamp for $2, a matted and framed hand-painted piece of calligraphy for $4, even handmade Longaberger picnic baskets.”

To get the best deals, Myhill advises to “shop early and shop often.”

So does Nelson, who says the inventory changes daily.

Over the years, donors—many family or friends of former CCH patients who are looking to give back for the help and support they received—have contributed some truly exceptional items. Murano art glass, Lenox china, wall hangings, silverware, artwork from all over the world and, sometimes, entire estates have arrived at the Thrift Store’s doorstep. Michael Murphy, the store’s manager for the past two decades and its only paid staff member, even recalls receiving jewelry from Tiffany and 16th century manuscripts.

However, everyday items—like clothing and shoes, kitchenware, vases and other decorative items—are more the norm. And even they often fly off the shelves. 

“We’re a small store, without a lot of storage space, so we need to keep the items moving out the door as quickly as possible,” Murphy says. “If something doesn’t sell, we continue to mark it down until it does. Or we end up giving it away to a community member in need.”  

Open from Tuesdays through Saturdays, the store draws a steady stream of “regulars” who visit weekly or even daily. Some come out of necessity; others are on a treasure hunt. 

The thrill of finding the unique is what initially attracted Richard Ross of Northwest, DC.

“I was working a few blocks away and looking for somewhere different to go during my lunch hour when I stumbled upon this little gem,” says the former Social Security Administration Appeals Judge, now a store volunteer. “Over the years, I’ve purchased some great stuff for myself and others, as well as a lot of materials that I’ve repurposed for crafting.”

One seasonal example of Ross’ handiwork is a holiday wreath he made out of vintage Christmas ornaments purchased at the Thrift Store. He’s also bought wrapping paper and ribbons, greeting cards, holiday lights, and other decorations, at a fraction of the original cost.

Bargain and treasure hunters aside, the popular resale shop fulfills multiple community needs.

By offering gently used merchandise, the store gives many lower income residents an opportunity to buy higher quality goods at an affordable price. It gives people looking to downsize—or simply clean-out—a worthy, tax-deductible recipient for belongings they no longer need nor want. And for the ecologically-minded, the Thrift Store offers a greener and more sustainable alternative to new products. 

Of course, the ultimate beneficiaries are those who receive quality advanced illness care from Capital Caring Health at no cost, thanks to the store’s proceeds. 

Like so many other organizations, though, the Thrift Store suffered during COVID, including being closed for several months because of Virginia’s healthcare mandates. And its tight-knit corps of volunteers—essential to keeping the organization up and running—dwindled as the pandemic grew. Fortunately, a small group of dedicated individuals and donors soldiered on, assuring a steady stream of new merchandise for shoppers…and a steady supply of funds for Capital Caring Health.

Now the store hopes to both attract more donations of high-quality goods—and recruit more volunteers—to further advance its mission.

“For such a little place, Capital Caring Health’s Thrift Store makes a big difference in the lives of so many,” Myhill says. “Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, it’s a win-win-situation.” 

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About Capital Caring Health’s Thrift Store:  The Thrift Store accepts donations of clean, contemporary, and seasonal men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, along with small appliances in good working order, gently used household goods, books, toys, decorative items, and small accent furniture. It does not accept children’s clothing, TVs, large furniture and other bulky goods.

Open from Tuesday through Saturday, the Thrift Store is located at 6172 Arlington Blvd, in Falls Church, Virginia. All proceeds support Capital Caring Health’s mission to provide care and support, regardless of ability to pay. For more information on donating, volunteering, or shopping, please visit https://www.capitalcaring.org/get-involved/donate/donate-by-shopping or call (571) 730-4311.

About Capital Caring Health: Capital Caring Health is one of the leading nonprofit providers of elder health, hospice, and advanced illness care for persons of all ages in the mid-Atlantic
region. A member of a national network of 70 nonprofit hospice providers, our mission is to provide patients and their families with advanced illness care that is second to none. We also have special hospice teams serving children and veterans. On an annual basis, we serve over 7,000 hospice patients and provide more than $3 million in charity care to those who are uninsured and have nowhere else to turn. Almost 90 cents out of every dollar goes to caring for
patients and their families.

The website, capitalcaring.org, is available in English, Spanish, and Korean plus offers 24/7 Live Chat. Since the beginning of hospice care over 40 years ago, we have served 120,000 patients and their families in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. 24 Hour Care Line: 800-869-2136.