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Gifting that Gives Back

By Tricia Schug

As volunteer manager and central buyer for the gift shop at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital (SPCH), Becky Lockett finds that shopping is not just a means to an end, but a deliberate and prudent endeavor.

“I’ve always enjoyed shopping, but now it’s also a challenge to me. I watch the trends, read magazines and note what is selling in other stores, and then try to find items that meet the expectations of our customers,” she said. “Our volunteers and hospital staff have great ideas and suggestions.”

Lockett’s task is to fill the 300-square-foot shop with items that people want to buy, from the inexpensive and practical to higher quality gifts. The job requires careful planning, educated buying, good timing and a bit of luck.

“It’s still a learning curve for me,” she said. Before starting as a volunteer in 2010, Lockett had no retail experience. “I’m proof that anyone can learn to do this position. Fortunately, I have had the privilege to learn from and work with great volunteers who contribute valuable life experiences.

”Now, she attends a couple trade shows a year in Seattle and Las Vegas searching for the perfect products. “I want to touch the items and see the quality before we buy, especially with higher end items. Quality is very important,” she said. She orders enough to stock the store for an entire year, with delayed shipping and billing dates for each season. As volunteers get to know a vendor and their products, orders to replace items can be placed by catalogs.

“I’ve heard people say that they like to shop in hospital gift shops because they find unique items they wouldn’t find elsewhere,” she said. “We often have better quality items at lower prices because we are operated by volunteers, meaning less overhead.”

All proceeds from the gift shop return to the nonprofit hospital, something that is a great source of inspiration and pride for the volunteers who staff the shop.

“There’s a feel-good component to the shop for me— for all of us, really—and that’s that we are able to give back to the hospital from our efforts,” she said.

A banner hanging on the wall across from the shop details the equipment purchased and the scholarships provided by the SPCH Auxiliary over the years, from a guest sofa bed in the Birthing Center to a centrifuge in the Lab to two vital signs machines on rolling carts and much more. When departments are in need, the Auxiliary steps in to help.

“When departments give us their wish lists for needs, and the Auxiliary can purchase things that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to purchase without our help — that feels good to me. We also help with continuing education for employees and scholarships,” she said.

Through the gift shop and special sales, the SPCH Auxiliary has donated more than $289,320 since 2011 in equipment, grants, scholarships, and support of the hospital general fund. The group also donated $60,000 to help build the Center for Health Education. Every purchase in the gift shop “gives back” in this way.

While Lockett enjoys her work with the gift shop, she would like to train others to help out. “I want to find volunteers who would be interested in sharing the roles with me,” she said. “Vendors have told me that hospital auxiliary gift shops across the country are starting to dwindle because they do not have enough volunteers to run them. We really don’t want that to happen here.”

Volunteers are needed to help staff the gift shop as well as to assist patients, help with special projects and much more. For more information on volunteering at SPCH, call Melissa Maxon at 541-574-2537. The hospital gift shop is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.