Grants will help with new Curiosity Shop renovations

By Lynn R. Parks

The Soroptimist Club of Seaford has received a $150,000 grant from the Longwood Foundation to help with the renovation of a building for its Curiosity Shop. It has also received a $42,000 grant from the Delaware Welfare Foundation, which, in combination with other grants and contributions from the community, means that the club has nearly two-thirds of the money it needs for the project.
The club hopes to start renovation work on the former bar at the front of Soroptimist Park the first of next year. Project cost is estimated at $400,000. “We would love to be in there by next Christmas,” said Peggy Geisler, club president. “But it is probably more realistic to say the summer after that.” Cost of the building and the surrounding property was $250,000. The city of Seaford, which owns Soroptimist Park in conjunction with the club, paid $125,000 of the cost. It hopes to use the land associated with the building for a concession stand for the ball field at the park, for a bathroom and eventually, for a bandstand and trails.
Charles Allen, whose mother Nellie was a charter member of the Seaford Soroptimist, paid the other half of the cost of the building. The shop will be called the Nellie G. Allen Curiosity Shop at Soroptimist Park. The club is applying for grants to help with the remaining $150,000 it has to raise for construction, said Linda Hollis, building committee chairwoman. It will also hold fund-raising events; a recent indoor yard sale brought in $2,000, she said. “We hope that once we start work on the building, people in the community will see what we are doing and will want to come on board,” Geisler said.
The service organization opened its Curiosity Shop in 1961. The shop is located in the old Lomar building on High Street, where it has 800 square feet of space. The new building has 5,000 square feet, which means that Soroptimist will be able to accept and sell more used clothing and household items. Geisler said that it will also have room for a play corner for children and for a table on which the club will display information about programs and help available for abused women and their children.

“We are more than just a shop,” she said. “We are an organization that serves the community. We hope with this larger shop, we will be able to let people know what we do.” The club donates about $40,000 a year to various organizations in the community, including area fire companies, high school bands, Hospice, reading programs, local libraries, literacy programs and women’s shelters. It also hands out college scholarships to Western Sussex students.
Beginning in February, the club will start a Dress for Success program, through which women referred by Delaware Technical Community College’s Women in Transition program can get free suits and shoes for job interviews. A grant from Soroptimist International of the Americas is helping with the program. Volunteers with the club will also be available to help with resumes. “Most of our members are professional women or business owners,” Geisler said. “They know what to look for in a resume.”
The club was formed in 1950 by a group of area business women. Membership was by invitation only and was open to women who owned or managed businesses. Membership is still by invitation. But its requirements have expanded to include women who are involved in any activities, even volunteering, outside the home. While men are also welcome, the Seaford’s club still has only women in it. In Geisler’s term as president, membership has increased by 20 percent, to 62, she said. And those members are “very active,” said Pat Jimenez, co-chairwoman of the building committee. In addition, in the last few years the club has twice received an award for the outstanding club in the north Atlantic region, which included New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.
“If you are a woman in this community that wants to be involved in the community and that believes in giving back, this is an organization you can be proud to be a part of,” Geisler said.

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