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Shop til you drop ... for a good cause

  • Published
  • By Kimberly L. Wright
  • Air University Public Affairs
"Yes, it's always this busy," responded thrift shop manager Reeba Robitzsch when asked whether the aisle-filling bustle of shoppers at the Maxwell Thrift Shop was normal. That bustle is good for the volunteers who devote their time there, the base shoppers who enjoy the shop's variety and bargain prices and the scholarship recipients whose education will benefit from the funds the shop generates.

The thrift shop is operated by the Maxwell-Gunter Officers' Spouses' Club as a means of funding their benevolent ventures, in particular the scholarships, which have been awarded since the club's inception more than 50 years ago.

"The main purpose is the scholarship fund," said Ms. Robitzsch.

According to club president Joan Cordero, last year the club awarded scholarships to 16 area high school students, totalling $2,000. Applicants are judged on a number of criteria, and a committee reviews all applicants, with each applicant designated by a number, said Ms. Cordero.

Application guidelines are available at the MGOSC Web site at

The remainder of the funds is earmarked for other local and national benevolent organizations such as the local food bank, humane society, American Cancer Society and Fisher Houses at Keesler AFB, Miss., and Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, said Ms. Robitzch. The amounts given to these causes vary based on thrift shop sales. Last year, $46,233 were dispersed in scholarships and donations.

"This thrift shop, hands down, is run really, really well," said Ms. Cordero, who has seen a lot of base thrift stores during her and her husband's tenure with the Marines. She admits she likes to brag to her Marine friends about the Maxwell shop.

The thrift shop business also gives volunteers a high level of job satisfaction, and as a result, the volunteers have served in the store for many years, providing countless man-hours in support of a good cause.

Those interested in volunteering at the thrift shop should contact Ms. Robitzsch, who will provide the basic information about volunteering. She said prospective volunteers should think of volunteer work as something that can conform to whatever their scheduling needs are. "[Volunteers] fit us into their schedule," she said. Volunteers can choose from a variety of jobs available, including consignment intake, pricing items, checking out and bagging items, shelf-stocking and creating displays.

One of the newest volunteers, Vicky Hollenbeck, is called a "short timer" even though she has worked there three years. She previously had served in the thrift shops at Travis AFB, Calif., and Scott AFB, Ill.

Ms. Hollenbeck enjoys her volunteer duties. "It's fun," she said. "It's for a good cause. I enjoy the people I work with. I enjoy the customers that come in. With the money that the shop makes, it's awesome who we help," she said.

She also appreciates the flexible schedule associated with her thrift shop work. "To me it's a very strong commitment to the job. I like the flexibility of it, but I take it as a very strong commitment."

Another volunteer, Dee Riddlebarger, has been a part of the thrift shop since moving to Maxwell with her husband, the late Col. Samuel Riddlebarger, in the early 80's. Colonel Riddlebarger served as commandant of the Air Force Professional Manpower and Personnel Management School and vice commander of the Leadership and Management Development Center at Maxwell.

"I've been volunteering ever since we've been in the service," said Ms. Riddlebarger. "I volunteered at Randolph in Texas at the thrift shop before we came here, and I also did Red Cross work there. And when we came here, I had time for something so I chose the thrift shop." As far as the reason so many volunteers stay with the thrift shop, she explained, "Most of us are old-timers that seem to get a knack for it and hang on."

Ms. Riddlebarger has contributed to the community through her volunteer work at the thrift shop, which also gives her a great social outlet. Her favorite aspects of the job are "the people you meet and get to know. And you're contributing to a good cause."