The re-invention of Auntie Helen’sTop Highlights, Feature Story Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
The store is quiet. It is morning, and before the doors open we rush to get things ready to serve our customers. For 22 years hundreds of volunteers and storekeepers have felt the same tingling of anticipation. Gary Cheatham began almost a quarter century ago in his garage thinking of a way to help his many friends who were sick, and having so many health issues. AIDS was breaking through as the decimator of the 20th century, and Gary needed to help, somehow. He began doing laundry for a few friends, and then it was in the dozens/hundreds. He left a high-paying corporate job, found ways to get funded (Joan Kroc gave a stellar start to Aunties!) and the thrift store and laundry fluff and fold were officially born. Today, we have more than 150 clients who receive monthly clothing allowances, 50 current laundry clients, and have a generous Saturday morning food give-away from Trader Joe’s (arrive early) We have medical equipment available to the community as well. The store and offices have gone through a recent renovation and rejuvenation of the spirit. It strives to go back to a grassroots time of simply reaching out to the community. Unfortunately, giving costs a lot. Expenses keep going up. Learning how much everything costs is a shock to this new manager/bookkeeper. We are constantly seeking new ways to save, and obtain grants from the community/state/government. The HIV/AIDS community needs help in so many ways. Our constituents that are homeless, with debilitating diseases, and just plain in need are not forgotten here at Auntie Helen’s. We ask the public to donate! Clean those closets out, clear the attic and storage centers, tame the hoarder within and let go of something for the greater cause. Come in and shop. We have often been rated the best thrift store in San Diego, with good reason. Remember us in your will. We are more than happy to provide you with our tax id number. Cash, credit or check donations are always appreciated and fully tax deductible. I asked our dynamic team of volunteers and staff what keeps them coming back to Auntie’s? Some of the responses I got were: “It is simply the best place to interact with amazing clients and co-workers,” “Doing something for the community felt right and true,” and “Staying involved with the finest historic HIV/AIDS organization in San Diego is vastly important.”
Michael Dudley, our inspiring executive director states, “The love, the memories, the refuge from everyday living saved my life.” Historically, and most amazingly enough, we are the only laundry service in the country devoted fully to HIV/AIDS patients, and now, indigent, short-term and long term illnesses. Auntie’s is now open 7 days a week. Tuesday-Saturday 10-6 p.m. Sunday-Monday 11-5 p.m. The donations center is open in the back alley from Tuesday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Smaller donations can always be brought in during store hours also. We offer pick-up for donations Thursday/Friday afternoons within 5 miles of the store. Auntie’s is at 4028 30th Street in awesome North Park. Phone 619-584-8438. Loving is the answer, caring our cause.
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