For the volunteers who run the Good Stuff Thrift Shop in Waldorf, it’s all about knowing their customers.
“Our real claim to fame is personal service,” said Sandy McGraw, who runs the 1,600-square-foot shop located in the Health Partners building on U.S. 301 next to the Old Waldorf School and the Greater Waldorf Jaycees Community Center. “When someone asks for something in particular, we run back here to see if we have it.”
The shop is a fundraising arm of Health Partners, a health services organization that delivers affordable medical and dental care.
Case in point: “The other day, a lady came in and said, ‘I’m shopping for my sister, she says she wears an 18 but she’s tall. She’s about as tall as you,’” McGraw recalled. McGraw found a pair on the rack and showed them to the woman, who said she liked them, but she didn’t know if they would be long enough.
“And I said, ‘Stay right here’ and ran in and I put them on,” McGraw said. “I came out and I said, ‘How are these?’ and she said, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful!’”
“Where else can you go to a thrift shop and have the staff model the merchandise?” McGraw asked, laughing.
In the year since Good Stuff opened last November, the 35 regular volunteers have gotten to know their regular customers well.
“We have one family that comes in, it’s the great-grandmother, the grandmother, the daughter with her children, and her mother, and the father comes in, too,” McGraw said. “The kids come in and they hug us, they made us Easter cards. We really do know our customers now. It’s a community.”
Part of the appeal of Good Things is its affordability and the quality of the items for sale.
“The most expensive thing we might have is a $20 coat,” McGraw said. “Generally our clothes prices are $5 and below. Dresses might be $6 or $7. Shoes are never more than $5, and most of them are $3.”
Volunteers receive plastic trash bags full of clothes at a time, but not everything goes on the shop floor. Items that don’t make the cut are donated in turn to other aid organizations like the Charles County Children’s Aid Society, and clothes that are beyond reuse are given to a recycler which pays them 3 cents per pound.
And every one of those pennies — minus expenses for things like hangers and shelves — goes to Health Partners to help it carry out its mission of providing health and dental care to residents who can’t afford health insurance.
“As of Sept. 1, we had sold $29,000 worth of merchandise,” McGraw said with pride. “We gave $10,000 to Health Partners in June, and we’re going to give them another $10,000 this month.”
“We’re going great guns,” said McGraw, who also serves on the board of Health Partners. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
Another way Good Stuff helps Health Partners is by referring customers to the nurse practitioners and dentists on staff when the volunteers think they could benefit from their services.
“We work together,” said Health Partners’ executive director Christine Mulcahey. “It’s great that they’re here.”
Health Partners, too, has been growing — thanks to the contributions from Good Stuff as well as from grants from the state and contributions from individual donors. In addition to their Waldorf location and a clinic in the Nanjemoy Senior Center that offers both medical and dental services, Health Partners just opened up a new dental suite in Lexington Park with the help of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.
“It took a little time to get everything up and running, but we opened the doors on Aug. 23 and on that day we welcomed 17 patients, and it’s continued to grow from there,” Mulcahey said. “We will be adding a second day very soon because the need is so great down there.”
In addition to providing adult health care services, one of Health Partners’ two family nurse practitioners will soon start offering pediatric care for children age 11 and up. Mulcahey said that if the demand is great enough, she hopes to add another pediatrician to the growing staff.
Health Partners has also been establishing connections with other health care providers in the county, such as referring patients to the county’s Mobile Integrated Health Care unit, which offers home visits by a nurse, a paramedic and a community health worker who work with patients to develop and follow wellness plans. The team members also conduct home safety assessments and are trained to address acute emergencies.
The history of Health Partners, which was founded 27 years ago by Sisters Michaeleen and Gladys Marie of the Sisters of Holy Cross, is told in a new book, “Mary’s Song,” which was just published by Michigan author Kathleen Brunton.
“That’s the beauty of Health Partners,” Mulcahey said. “It’s not just what we’re doing, it’s how we’re partnering with the community and what we can do together.”
A common thread that ties the two organizations together is their dedication to establishing relationships with the people they serve.
“I have always said since I came on board here [that] the intangible that’s here is its greatest strength,” McGraw said.
“And that’s when somebody walks in the door, they are treated with respect and dignity. It’s not, ‘You’re here because you can’t afford something.’ It’s, ‘You are here because you need our help and we’re happy to give it.,” she said.