Unsung Heroes

Helen’s Hope Chest: Giving Back Selflessly 


Ribbon-cutting ceremony for grand opening with foundation Marci Kurtz (glasses) and volunteers. Photo by George Mattei
Ribbon-cutting ceremony for grand opening with foundation director Marci Kurtz (glasses) and volunteers.
Photo by George Mattei

“You might think good jobs, good schools or a beautiful downtown area” makes our community great, Pomona resident Barry Schecter says. “All of these things are important, but the most important thing that makes any community great is its volunteers.”

Ten of those volunteers donate time to Helen’s Hope Chest, located in Building 14 of the Helen Hayes Hospital campus in West Haverstraw, it’s staffed by retirees “who share their wealth of knowledge, time and efforts,” he said. “All have some association with the hospital, and want to give back what they received.”

The spirit of the late actress and Nyack resident Helen Hayes MacArthur — its namesake — was present as foundation director Marci Kurtz and staff took part in the Hope Chest’s ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony on October 23, 2014.

Volunteers Alice Gavin, Patty Hanley, Deb Babcock, Rita Feeney, Jo Jo Lynch, Ann Miller, Evelyn Ringel, Carolyn Wolf, Lana Goltz and Schechter accept and process donations, stock the sales floor, straighten and clean racks and shelves, assist customers, rotate displays and process purchases. Two are from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, some were patients, and some wanted to give back to the hospital.

Schechter’s mother, 92, had hip surgery at the hospital and was walking three weeks later. “People here, staff, touch so many lives. Building 14 was the former polio lab. Part of the building is still a research center,” he said. “Some customers said they remember being candy stripers (volunteers) in this building.”

A former manager at Caldor, Bradlees and Target, he retired in 2013 and was “elected” manager when the shop’s prior manager resigned. “People who come in remember me more from the stores I managed.”

An estimated 40 to 100 people visit the shop daily, per Schechter’s unofficial pre-Christmas study. “It was busy that Thursday,” he said.

The shop takes in gently-used clothing, items with tags (new), bric-a-brac, housewares, antiques, electronics, artwork, jewelry, and toys.

“I had to buy a book about antiques and collectibles to know how to price some of them,” Schechter joked. “The shop has some really cute stuff and a little twist with its boutique feel, and the inventory changes daily.”

Helen’s Hope Chest is open Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fridays from noon to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Donation days are Monday’s noon – 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from 3 – 5 p.m., and by appointment. All sales proceeds will benefit the hospital’s Foundation whose mission is to help patients rebuild their lives following catastrophic injuries and disabling illnesses.

Cash and credit cards are accepted; no checks. For information, call Helen’s Hope Chest at 845-786-4084.

The shop is always looking for volunteers. The Foundation is hoping for enthusiastic volunteers for Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. To volunteer, call the Foundation office at 845-786-4365.

Do you know an Unsung Hero? Send your suggestion to editor@rocklandcountytimes.com.

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