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Little shop of treasures

Senior center's gift shop has most everything under the sun -- warm smiles included.

December 30, 2006|By Jessie Brunner

Though the diversity of knickknacks in the Costa Mesa Senior Center Gift Shop is extensive, the most precious item exchanged there will always be friendship.

Wearing a purple toggle coat she bought there, Lorene DeSpain was at the shop Thursday afternoon, scanning the shelves and counters from which she recently purchased many Christmas gifts while visiting with 83-year-old volunteer Ann Kozma.

DeSpain, 80, was one of the first seniors to work in the shop when it opened in 2001 but stopped when she injured her arm a couple of years ago.

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"I miss working at the gift shop, but I still come every day," she said. "There is a sense of community here."

Seniors who visit the center often stop in at the tiny store — which sells goods donated and crafted by the community — to contribute and purchase clothes, jewelry and other miscellaneous goodies, though they're mainly there for the company.

"As soon as it opens, they all congregate inside," said Aviva Goelman, the center's executive director. "This is where they come to socialize before and after other activities."

Open five days a week, the gift shop is run entirely by volunteers, and all proceeds — about $1,600 per month — are used to benefit the senior center.

Sherryl Ward visits the shop at least three times a week, oftentimes to purchase yarn and knitting needles to make scarves for her grandchildren. For the past few years, Ward has been roasting a Thanksgiving turkey in a metal pan she found in the shop's trove.

"This is the sweetest place," the 66-year-old Costa Mesa resident said. "You can find collectibles if you know what you're looking for."

Kozma, who has worked in the shop for more than a year, remembers selling a new bedding collection, complete with a pillow set, for $30 when it was available in department stores for 10 times the price. If it hadn't sold the moment she put it on display, she had planned to buy it herself.

A fan of the 10-cent chocolates available at the cash register, Anne Hogan-Shereshevsky calls the outlet "the biggest little gift shop," referring to the plethora of items available there.

Hanukkah candles, silk scarves, Mardi Gras beads — there is something for everyone, and seldom does merchandise stay in the store more than a month.

"Sometimes we have to guess what things are for and try to sell them," she said, "but we always do."

Pricing the items is a guessing game, Kozma said, though she keeps everything inexpensive because most seniors don't have a lot of money.

Most clothing items are sold for $5, books for $1 and there is a box of bric-a-brac that offers items for a quarter apiece.

Only one rule governs the gift shop's commerce: No returns, no refunds.

The shop is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, to the general public. Donations are accepted at all times, and tax-deductible receipts are available.

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