By Christina Grand Porter
Today it is a great enough feat for a nonprofit community service organization to stay open, but the Sunshine Shop on the Burton Fairgrounds has a special distinction in that it has been operating for more than 50 years – with a staff of volunteers. It now adds up to four generations of dedicated volunteers who have sorted and sold since at least 1967 so the proceeds could go to help the neediest members of our community.
The shop began with community in mind when the Fairboard Women’s Auxiliary began collecting goods to give to people who were “burnt out” of their homes or just down on their luck. This concept segued into the Sunshine Shop located in the Farm Products building on the south end of the fairgrounds in Burton.
The shop is a total win-win situation for the entire community. Their mission statement is to help children and families with emergency needs. Unusual circumstances can leave some families in a tight spot while they wait for help and these proceeds help fill some of the gaps. Each October the Sunshine Board accepts applications and awards grants to Geauga County nonprofit organizations so that they can have funding available for emergency needs. An example of how vital the shop’s services are is the 2007 story of a woman who went straight to the shop after being released from the hospital when she lost everything in a house fire.
It’s a wonderful place to donate and repurpose your clothes, bedding, toys, books, kitchen and household items to help people in Geauga County. You can be sure your donations are going to a good cause. Everyone is welcome to shop for gently used and new donated items. With the season of giving upon us, it’s the perfect place to find seasonal tins and ornaments. Pick up a few serving plates, bowls and platters so you can give cookies and attend potlucks without worrying about the plates being returned. For only $5 you can always fill a box with children’s games, toys and books to give Santa a helping hand or help keep the peace during long winter days and nights.
Shop director, Kathy Abe said, “We love to help people find what they are looking for. Some people are thrilled to add to their collection. Some have favorite authors so head straight to the books. Some come in to shop for others. Some find just the right frame or gift. Sometimes we can help with a suit jacket or dress for that one-time occasion. Recently a customer came in to tell us how great the curtains she bought looked in her room. That is what’s the most fun for me. Working here makes us feel good and this time of year we feel like Santa’s helpers.”
Clothing for all ages and sizes are available. Many regular customers purchase work clothes or shirts to use as painting smocks. You don’t have to pay much for the clothing, so it’s no disaster if something gets ruined. With items being sorted every week, it’s a crafters heaven. Beads, yarn, craft supplies and sewing materials are always making their way to the shop and a lot of teachers shop there for pieces to use for special classroom projects. You never know what you’ll find, but when you find it, you better grab it since nothing stays there long and it likely won’t be there the next time you go back.
For many, the best part of going in are the warm smiles of the volunteers. They are familiar faces to the regulars -many have been there for years, and some have been helping out for decades. The camaraderie between the volunteers, who usually donate eight hours of their time per week, is exceptional, and this happy attitude is extended to everyone who walks though the door. This is the season to remember our blessings and Sunshine Shop and its dedicated volunteers are a huge blessing in this community.
Sunshine Shop is located on the south end of the fairgrounds, 14373 N Cheshire St., Burton (44021). They are open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donations can be dropped off during shop hours or on Wednesday mornings when the volunteers are sorting through bags and straightening the shelves.