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By Carmen Ensinger
Tucked away inside Thomas H. Boyd Memorial Hospital is what one might call a truly “hidden gem”. Heart Strings Gift Shop has been in operation for around seven years now, yet most people don’t even know it is there.
The gift shop was started by Cathy Handlin, X-ray Supervisor, and Sarah Flowers, an X-ray technician.
“I think a lot of the public don’t even know it is in here unless they come in as a patient,” Handlin said. “Then, they are like, ‘oh, I didn’t know you had a gift shop here.’ They will come in for a mammogram or something and ask when we put in a gift shop.”
The Christmas Open House was held on Friday, Nov. 12 giving everyone an opportunity to get that first look at the new Christmas items out and grab some cookies and punch before they leave.
“This is usually our biggest sales day of the year,” Handlin said. “Everyone looks forward to seeing what new Christmas items we are going to have this year.”
So, why did they put in a gift shop.
“Sarah and I realized that we are the only hospital around that didn’t have a gift shop,” Handlin said. “So, we just decided to try and get one put together. The very first vendor market we went to was in Chicago because we had no idea where to start or where to buy the stuff to go in the gift shop. They had all of these different vendors there so we just kind of did some shopping around and brought home some catalogs and started ordering stuff and it has kind of grown from there.”
With it being the Christmas season and all, the Christmas Open House featured, what else, Christmas décor and gifts.
“We have a lot of Christmas themed home décor items along with ornaments for the tree, snow globes, just about anything to do with Christmas,” Handlin said. “We also have a lot of gift type items such as jewelry, hats, gloves, watches and those kinds of things. We try to carry a lot more gift type items at Christmas because a lot of our employees do their Christmas shopping in here.”
In fact, Handlin said their employees are their best customers.
“We have a lot of our employees who do all of their Christmas shopping in here rather than face the crowds,” Handlin said. “Our employees get a discount and they have the option to do payroll deduct their purchases so that helps them a lot as well. They can even spread it over a couple different paychecks if they want to.”
The gift shop is run strictly by volunteers and has been since it was first opened.
“Today, we have two volunteers that mainly run it, but when we first opened, we had a lot of elderly volunteers, but a lot of them got in poor health and weren’t able to do it anymore,” Handlin said. “But they all loved working here. The volunteers did, and do, a lot of their shopping here too. Some of them have said to us “we are like paying you to work here.”
Any profit that is made on the gift shop goes into a special account which Handlin said will hopefully, one day, grow large enough to purchase a piece of equipment for the hospital.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize that that is what the gift shop is for – to help raise funds for the hospital,” Handlin said. “At some point in time, we would like to buy something for the hospital as the account continues to grow.”
When asked what the hours were for the gift shop, Handlin couldn’t really give set hours.
“If I have a volunteer, they usually come in around 9 a.m. and stay till noon or 1 or 2 p.m.,” she said. “But anytime anyone is here and wants to look in the gift shop, all they have to do is knock on the X-ray room door and if we are not busy we will be glad to open the door and let them look.”
The gift shop is located directly across from the X-ray room. The X-ray room and gift shop can both be reached by going in the Emergency Room doors, into the hospital and then going straight through the double doors and about halfway down the hallway.
“We really don’t mind coming out and opening up so people can shop,” Handlin said. “I come in at 7 a.m. and there have been employees getting off the midnight shift who have asked me to open up so they can shop before they go home. So, we really have no set hours.”
Handlin said they are always looking for more volunteers to help man the gift shop.
“The ones we do have now – they love it,” she said. “Anyone who would like to volunteer their time, can come and see me here at the hospital.”