COOK- After a challenging year marked by intermittent closures and reduced revenues, volunteers at the Cook Area Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Shop started 2021 with good news on Monday when they …
COOK- After a challenging year marked by intermittent closures and reduced revenues, volunteers at the Cook Area Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Shop started 2021 with good news on Monday when they received a Touchstone Energy Community Award and a $500 check to go with it.
Lake Country Power Public Relations Coordinator Tami Zaun delivered the check and a plaque on behalf of the cooperative and spoke highly of the thrift shop’s contributions that led to the award.
“They’ve been around for 65 years and they’ve really touched the community, the area, and the region,” Zaun said. “It’s all volunteer-run, nobody is on the payroll here. And it’s all from people who are giving donations. They’re giving back to the community. Lake Country Power serves the Cook community, so I’m really happy to come up here and see our fellow members.”
The thrift shop has donated nearly $1 million to Cook Hospital, and volunteers have performed countless hours of service across more than six decades.
Zaun thought so much of the shop’s contributions that she brought along her own.
“I had some old clothes to get rid of, so I brought them in, and my husband did, too, with his suits,” Zaun said. “So those will eventually go on the floor and we’re just really happy to give a donation, seeing how it gets used for the hospital.”
Auxiliary President Kirsten Reichel credited volunteer Shawna Kishel with tipping her off about the award and the application process. With the assistance of treasurer Mary Mollard, Reichel wrote the narrative for the application and sent it in.
“Three or four weeks later I got an email from Tami saying they selected the thrift shop as their recipient,” Reichel said.
The award is the result of a competitive process in which applications are screened and scored by a review committee, Zaun said, and one winner is chosen. The thrift shop will now compete with winners from other Minnesota electric cooperatives for statewide recognition and a $1,000 award.
“It’s a double-good thing, I guess is a good way to say it,” Reichel said. “We get a little bit of compensation, but we also get some credit for everything that we do. As you can see, it’s always a bustling place when all our volunteers are here.”
Health concerns about the coronavirus kept some of those volunteers away in the early months of the pandemic, Reichel said.
“And then, after a while, people started feeling more comfortable about coming in on workdays and that type of thing, so for the most part, I think we stayed open the majority of the time that we usually do. Now we’re back more on an even keel. The business is good – we’ve had a lot of people coming in. We’ve got things flowing through, places to put everything and the donation situation has been great. So, I think we’re kind of back to normal.”
While the shop is run by volunteers, they still have operating expenses to cover, and Mollard said that the monetary award was enough to cover two to three months of heating expenses.
“This will really help us,” she said.
The thrift store is open Thursday and Friday each week and can be found at 320 SE 3rd Avenue, just off Highway 53 in Cook.