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Time to Give Back – Finding New Purpose as a Volunteer

From the minute she walked through the door at Friendship Centers in 2016, Teddy Picard knew she was in the right place. Recently retired and bored, she was feeling useless and down in the dumps, and was looking for more out of life.

Picard had worked in advertising sales, real estate, and sold timeshares and home warranties, all while raising children in Sarasota, so she was used to staying busy. She knew she wanted to stay active in her retirement, but hadn’t found the right fit. Then her daughter, who worked at Friendship Centers, invited her to come see what the Senior Center in Sarasota had to offer.

“Just being in the activity center and seeing all the people dressed up and dancing and having a great time, it lifted my spirits so much that I knew I wanted to be here all the time,” she said. “I volunteered for odd jobs around the center – the front desk, the Bistro, the library – but when someone said, ‘you should open a thrift store,’ I knew that was my calling.”

Picard opened the thrift shop in a small room at the center, and after 6 months it was so popular that she needed more space. The shop sells items mainly of interest to women, including clothes, costume jewelry, accessories, CDs, DVDs, and small household items.

“At first we sold things for men too but there wasn’t much interest,” she said. “Now we focus on high end clothes and we have such a beautiful assortment of things for sale. We are very picky about what goes into the store.”

Picard spends about 12 hours a week in the center as the store’s manager, and another 3-8 hours a week organizing, washing and pricing the clothes and other items that are donated mostly by center members. She has also grown a team – 7 volunteers help her run the store from 10-3 PM Monday-Friday each week. All proceeds from the Thrift Shop support the Friendship Centers, about $200-400 per week. Picard has donated more than her time, and has recruited family to the cause as well.

“I donated all of the shelves, racks and bookcases to the thrift store,” she said. “My husband put all of them up and I’ve had my grandchildren in to volunteer. I’ve also taken out ads in the Happy Thrifter. I want to see this store grow and succeed.”

On April 3, she will host the store’s third fashion show during the center’s regularly scheduled live music and dancing. Ten models will wear two outfits each, and strut the runway during the band’s 20-minute breaks at 1:30 and 2:15 p.m.

“The fashion show is such a fun thing to be a part of,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but we’ll get to showcase the quality of the donations we are offering at such reasonable prices. We’ll have models of all shapes and sizes, there is truly something for everyone.”

Picard’s vision for the store is to see it grow, and she hopes to be a part of it “for forever.”

“I’ve always wanted a shop like this, and now I have it,” she said. “I truly love this place. I was in a bad place physically and emotionally before I found Friendship Centers and this has brought purpose back into my life.”

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