By Ann Bryant, Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Volunteers are turning The Branch, Franklin Memorial Hospital Auxiliary gift shop, in to a “destination location” to serve the whole community.
The shop now offers unique items to the community with one hundred percent of profits providing something the community can enjoy, Pam Yenco, store manager, said.
It is the largest fundraiser but only one of several activities undertaken by the Auxiliary which raise funds for scholarships and to purchase items and support programs at the hospital, she said.
Last year, the group met a hospital match of $19,000 for a new bone density machine. This year, new rocking chairs were purchased for delivery, she said.
The long-time endeavor to keep the small shop open seven days a week reflects many volunteer hours from those who share of their own talents and wisdom.
“Success takes a village,” she said. “Volunteers do some wonderful things not just at FMH but at hospitals throughout the country.”
With years of experience owning and operating different businesses, including the Chocolate Shoppe in Farmington, Yenco was told to “do what you want” as the volunteer manager.
The result, over the last couple years, is a makeover of the store. It is still a hospital gift shop with items for patients and new babies displayed amid some colorful gift items.
Word of mouth brings shoppers in to find a myriad of new items not found anywhere else, she said. Some shoppers are not there to visit someone at the hospital.
“They come looking for a ‘you-nique’ or exclusive item,” Yenco said.
A feature wall displays new items. The layout of the store changed for improved display purposes.
Gifts for patients including flowers from Richard’s Florist, cards, plush toys and baby items are still there along with seasonal items, some knit sweaters and hats, jewelry and snacks.
Yenco does the buying and bookkeeping for the shop but not all items are purchased, she said.
Some things are donated. Some, like framed photographs and crafts by local artisans, are there on commission.
A framed display holds Friendship Pins, ones made by volunteers during their stint at the front desk. Many of the beads are donated.
The pins have garnered $500 in sales. The volunteers chose to use the funds to purchase books for newborns and are planning a first birthday event where they will receive a second book, she said.
And, Yenco has found a new home for her gourmet chocolates.
“I can stay up to my elbows in chocolate again,” she said.
She retired from the chocolate business but now her gourmet chocolates are exclusively available only at The Branch from September through Mother’s Day, she said.
“Quality is still number one. It is a good income for the hospital and I’m having fun doing it,” she said.
An upcoming Valentine special is planned. Flowers, chocolates and a card available in small, medium and large sizes. Orders will be taken from Feb. 1-12. It is a one-stop shopping offer, she said.
Yenco listens when customers voice what they don’t see. She strives to help connect the shop, the Auxiliary and the hospital with the community.
The 10 volunteers who work in the shop also voice their choices for inventory. Many volunteer to say thank you for the care they or a loved one received, she said.
There are a couple volunteer slots that need to be filled, Yenco said.
The gift shop is doing well, Jean Rand, FMH Auxiliary president, said.
Not all volunteers are Auxiliary members, but those who are hold book and food sales, a scrubs and shoe sale, organize blood drives, offer a memory tree and service at Christmas and memory stones, to remember loved ones, in the garden.
A tea with Mrs. Claus was recently held and plans for a tea in the garden are being considered.
The Branch is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays.
A website for The Branch is a work in progress, she said. For more information, call the shop at 779-2581.