Wyckoff Economy Shop gives back to local schools
May 13, 2016
As the butterfly pin was removed from a thick bed of plastic beads, tarnished metals, and dulled jewels, its glistening gems reflected the light in such a way that caught even a distracted eye. The alluring bijou was thoughtlessly placed on the freshly shined glass counter top.
The broach sat patiently on the counter while warm voices casually exchanged words. Minutes passed and the chatter quieted and the charming sound of a bell rang as a door softly shut.
The wings of the butterfly were then carefully lifted once again and inquisitive eyes studied the unique amalgam of colorful gems.
In the days to come the beautiful broach would be admired and studied by many, only to safely return to its home in a carefully protected wooden case.
“Of course it’s hard to give an exact estimate,” a wise voice whispered, studying the wings of the butterfly. “However, I would say that due to its unique nature and the prestige of the gems… you’re looking at upwards of one-thousand dollars.”
The following days passed at an express pace. The bell incessantly rang and the doors rarely remained closed for longer than a matter of minutes. The pin repeatedly traveled between the cold glass countertop and warm hands.
Three words ended this frenzy as quickly as a number value started it.
“I’ll take it.”
The beauty of the butterfly pin took on another form that day.
Now, that profit is preserved in a different form: in the playground of Coolidge Elementary School, along with thousands of other dollars also donated to the Wyckoff Public School System through The Economy Shop.
The Wyckoff PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) Economy Shop is a non-profit consignment store that functions on the generosity of its surrounding community and volunteers.
The modest shop began in 1947 as a series of monthly garage sales hosted by Wyckoff mothers. Since then, the Economy Shop moved into the old Wyckoff train station. For many years now, the quaint red barn has sat in front of the Wyckoff Main Street train tracks with open welcoming doors.
“Our main mission is to help kids and to build kid’s programs at the schools. That aside, I think all of our volunteers always speak to the friends that they’ve made, the camaraderie of the shop, the fun that the teams have in supporting this mission,” Jane Baczynski, marketing manager of the Economy Shop, said. “I think that’s why so many of us give so much of our lives, literally, to the shop. You kind of get pulled in, not because you’re forced to, but because there’s something bigger than us there. There’s an energy there and there’s this team effort to give back to the community.”
In the past three years, the Wyckoff PTO Economy Shop has distributed over $120,000 to the Wyckoff Public School District and Ramapo and Indian Hills High Schools.
“The money is given to the PTO for them to decide what they wish to do with the money. The money that the PTO has received has increased yearly,” treasurer Fran Waller-Robertson said. “Our consignors get sixty percent of what is sold and the shop keeps forty percent. So at the end of the quarter after all our bills are paid and our consignors are given their sixty percent, I make a judgement as to how much money we have. We then divide that amount by seven and that’s how much money is given to each of the seven schools.”
Each school year, the net profits are distributed equally to the parent-teacher organizations of the seven Wyckoff schools.
From the 2014-2015 school year, nearly fifty thousand dollars were donated by The Economy Shop to the Wyckoff school system. Each school received over seven-thousand dollars that were then used for student scholarships, teacher grants, field trips, STEM programs, and school ground maintenance, to name a few.
Currently, the shop has approximately 277 consignors who can possess up to four accounts each, with eight items in each account. However, The Economy Shop thrives off of the altruism of its community and the donations that it receives.
“The town is very generous as far as donations are concerned,” Waller-Roberston said. “I would say this year a minimum of three-hundred people have donated items.”
Donated items are examined to ensure that they are in an appropriate condition to sell. Any garments or products that do not make it past this initial inspection are donated to nearby non-profit organizations.
“Nothing gets thrown in the garbage with us, we find a place for everything,” Waller-Roberston said. “Even if it has a rip or what have you there are places that even need that. If you already have nothing, a ripped sweater is everything.”
The donated items that remain unscathed are then marked to be sold and the shop receives the profits. However, if the product is unable to be sold after four weeks, then the item is discounted by fifty percent. After the following two weeks, if the product still has yet to be sold, then it is donated to local organizations such as Oasis and Star of Hope.
“It’s a powerful thing when you see items coming in that are not going to a landfill and are not going somewhere into a dark hole. They’re actually going to someone else that’s going to enjoy them and use them and give them continued life, if you will,” Baczynski said. “Perhaps, take something and rework it to be something else. I think that’s more powerful than when you go into a for-profit business and you buy items that are really going to the bottom line that are going to that company versus our bottom line which is going back to fund programs for children in the community.”
The spirit of giving
The colorful budding heads of daisies and chrysanthemums and the warm sweep of crisp air broke the glum winter.
For many local students, the signs of spring prompted a joy and excitement for the summer months to come.
However, at a charter school in Newark, the spring season did anything but that. Instead, it gently reminded the girls of graduation. A graduation that would encourage the eighth grade girls to be adorned in beautiful lavish dresses, but they would need to be purchased with money that they did not have.
Dress-induced anxiety had dissuaded these girls, year after year, from attending their own graduation ceremonies. They might shy from celebrating their achievements and diligence because of a dress — a seemingly innocent concoction of cloth and beads.
One day, a teacher, alarmed that such a tradition continued to endure throughout the years, picked up the phone and dialed a series of numbers.
In five minutes, a phone call ended the recurring cycle.
It was a Saturday. The colorful petals of daisies and chrysanthemums continued to bud and the warm air continued to blow across the green of the grass.
The charming red siding and white cookie-cutter borders served as a beacon of hope to the line of girls lined outside the shop.
One-by-one they entered through the door, greeted by a friendly bell.
Hanging before them on a sea of racks were dresses of all sorts. Long, short, flowy, fitted, red, blue, the meadow of pressed dresses waited for them. A field of colorful shoes and purses blossomed from the floor. Necklaces, bracelets, and earrings swayed rhythmically with the warm breeze drifting through the shop.
The garden of garments had all been donated by individuals in the community. When word of the girls’ tribulations reached the ears of the surrounding towns immediate action was taken. In a matter of days The Economy Shop served as a junction for the dresses and accessories.
That year, every eighth grade girl at the Newark Charter school attended her graduation.
It was a spring day, filled with budding flowers, a warm breeze, and a unanimous sense of joy and excitement.
The charter school in Newark is not the only recipient of The Economy Shop’s magnanimous actions. The shop has donated suitcases to foster children, clothing to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, toys to daycares and summer programs in Clifton and Paterson, and winter coats to impoverished families.
“We’re working right now with a woman who has just started a non-profit dance studio in Paterson. None of her dancers had dance shoes or ballet shoes, so we provide them with dance shoes that we receive,” Karen Arone, Vice President of donations, said. “We’ve helped a lot of people out. This year our DVDs and books were sitting in a marine base in Afghanistan during Christmas time.”
This year, The Economy Shop has donated a lot of clothing to Oasis, a haven for women and children who are overcome by the adverse cycle of poverty in Paterson, New Jersey. Oasis aims to revolutionize the lives of women and children who enter into their doors by breaking this cycle of poverty through programs intended to clothe, inform, feed and inspire women and children in need.
“The clothing is distributed to impoverished women and children living in need in Paterson,” Jennifer Brady, Executive Director of Oasis, said. “The women and children may be students at Oasis, individuals who come to our Soup Kitchen for a hot meal, or they may be referred to Oasis by other agencies serving the poor in Paterson.”
Once Oasis receives the clothing from The Economy Shop, it is sorted by volunteers in Oasis’s clothing room according to size. The social services staff at Oasis escort the women to the clothing room, where they are assisted by volunteers who help them find and choose the items they need. Although clothing is regularly distributed on Wednesday mornings, the program is accessible at any time for emergency walk-ins.
“By donating clothing, the Economy Shop helps to ensure that we have ample supply when women turn to us for clothing for themselves and their children,” Brady said. “Often they come because they are victims of domestic violence, homeless, or fire victims. Many are simply poor.”
Emulating their philanthropy towards the Charter School, the shop is currently donating unused prom dresses to the teen program at Oasis. The bridal dresses, originally used as samples, are donated to the shop by Something Special Bridals.
“It’s really nice to know that we took in, one way or another, a donation or something equivalent and we can give ‘X’ amount of dollars to other organizations,” Waller-Robertson said. “Our giving back is not just the dollars we give to the PTO, it’s how many thousands of dollars we collect from people that don’t know what to do with their items and we turn it around and give it to other organizations.”
The Economy Shop has received much appreciation from the beneficiaries of their good will, some even in the form of letters. One of which was from a sixth grader in a neighboring city. The colorfully scribbled letter described with excitement that the first book she had ever owned in her entire life was donated by The Economy Shop to her classroom.
“Everybody is very grateful and they look forward to whatever we can give them,” Arnone said. “Even though the by-laws are that the schools should make profit, we’ve always had an underlying interest to make sure that charity was also part of the shop.”
Arnone fears that the charitable nature of The Economy Shop towards its extended community goes unnoticed.
“I want people to know that it’s not just us and we need to help everybody else around who need it. Sometimes people need help and that’s what friendship should be,” Arnone said. “If you help one kid you could change their life around. I think all kids are kids. It takes a village to raise a kid and I think that’s what the shop is all about.”