Every week on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, the 400 block of Marion’s Main Street and surrounding streets are lined with vehicles as people flock to the St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary Shoppe to browse the thousands of items available for sale.
Now in its fifth year, the future of the nonprofit business is uncertain. The building currently housing the store is in foreclosure and will be auctioned at 2 p.m. March 11 in a sheriff’s sale at the courthouse.
Since the store opened in December 2005, it has netted $140,830 for the auxiliary. Much of the money has been used to purchase equipment for St. Luke Hospital and St. Luke Living Center. In January, the auxiliary presented $60,000 to St. Luke Hospital Foundation for the hospital’s renovation and expansion project.
Donated items come from near and far, according to Rosemary Garrard, store manager. Excess used shoes are given to the American Legion for redistribution to veterans. Excess clothing is exchanged at the rescue mission in Wichita for knickknacks, dishes, and other items to sell at the store.
Operated by volunteers who donate many hours of their time, the store has had a big impact on the Marion community. In addition to what it does for the hospital, it draws people to the downtown area and provides low-cost essentials for families.
Jo Ann Stuchlik of Pilsen said she and her seven children like to shop at the auxiliary store. There are many things to look at and many goods to buy at a cheap price.
Forrest and Bea Kelsey were operating cash registers Friday.
“There are several other stores like this in our area, but this one has the best camaraderie,” Forrest said. “They tell us we are the most popular place in town.”
“We don’t get paid, but they sure make good coffee,” Richard Hein, another volunteer, said.
“A lot of friendships were formed here,” Phyllis Kreutziger, a regular volunteer, said. “It’s fun. It’s not work. We have many repeat customers. They are good buyers and they give back. To give this up would leave a big hole in our community.”
Volunteers spend Monday and Tuesday going through items and preparing them for sale. This continues while the store is open on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, so clothes racks and shelves are continually replenished.
“We feel if we lose that building, we don’t have a good alternative,” Auxiliary Treasurer Eileen Sieger said. “We’ve looked at options.”
“We are doing a lot of praying,” Garrard said.
Evelyn Bredemeier, and Joyce Richmond help her manage the store.
Chris Costello, president of Tampa State Bank, which owns the loan on the building, said the sheriff’s sale would allow the bank to take ownership of the building.
“We are taking it through foreclosure to get clear title, so we can do something with it,” he said.
When that is accomplished, he said, St. Luke Auxiliary or St. Luke Hospital Foundation would have the first opportunity to purchase the building.
“We are willing to do what we can to work with them,” Costello said.
The auxiliary ordered a building inspection in 2009. They were told it needed extensive work to bring it up to code, including new wiring and new floors, an expense that Garrard said would be prohibitive. She said the auxiliary is focusing on needs associated with the expansion of the hospital.
“We sure don’t want to lose the auxiliary shop,” Jeremy Armstrong, CEO of St. Luke Hospital, said, “but our hands are tied.”
He said the hospital board has no authority to purchase facilities that do not relate directly to health care.