Soroptimist Club hands out $100,000 a year from money raised in the Curiosity Shop

By Lynn R. Parks

Malls and stores across the nation are starting to prepare for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. Similarly, Lori Milton, manager of the Nellie G. Allen Curiosity Shop in Seaford, is getting ready, lining up volunteers to help out with the rush of shoppers she is expecting. "Last year, we had 100 people lined up outside on Friday morning, waiting for the store to open," Milton said. But the thrift shop is not busy only at Christmas. According to Milton, the store makes about 2,000 sales a week, the proceeds from which go to the Soroptimist Club in Seaford. The club in turn gives the money back to the community, in scholarships and in donations to organizations including Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, area fire companies, the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club, schools, the Seaford Mission and the Seaford District Library. Most recently, the club gave money to the Sussex County chapter of Habitat for Humanity and to Delaware Hospice, for a new Hospice center to be built in Milford. In all, the club hands out about $100,000 a year. All of that money is generated in the Curiosity Shop, which sells clothes and other items that are donated by members of the community. "Your donations are what make all the wonderful things we do possible," said Nancy Hickman, chairwoman of the Soroptimist Club's ways and means committee, which oversees the shop. "We are so grateful for all the community's donations."

(Note: The shop does not accept large items of furniture, appliances or mattresses. "We simply do not have the room to display them," Hickman said.) Hickman said that the Curiosity Shop benefits the community in three ways. In addition to generating income for good causes, it provides 22 jobs. It also provides a place where people in western Sussex can buy good-quality used clothing at very low prices. Every other Thursday, shoppers can get whole bags of clothing for $2 each. For one day about every three weeks, all women's pants in the store are just 50 cents. And once a week, the prices on all children's items are reduced to 25 cents and on all adult items to 50 cents. "Nothing goes on the racks that we would not buy ourselves," Hickman said. That means that clothing that is torn or that is dirty does not become part of the Curiosity Shop inventory. Workers at the shop examine all donated items, to make sure that they meet the shop's standard. All of the dolls that are donated to the shop are refurbished by Soroptimist volunteer Helen Records, Seaford. The shop is named for a charter member of the Soroptimist Club in Seaford and a driving force behind the creation of the Curiosity Shop 46 years ago. Soroptimist Club member Jan Lundquist said that Nellie Allen, founder with her husband, Charles, of Allen Family Foods, Seaford, stored donated items in her garage in the early days of the shop. The current Curiosity Shop, at 1100 Middleford Road, was dedicated in December 2002. It is next to Soroptimist Park, which can be included in the list of causes that benefit from the money generated by the shop. For your information: The Nellie G. Allen Curiosity Shop, 1100 Middleford Road, Seaford, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For information, call the shop, 629-2650.

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