Monroe Senior Center program coordinator Tracy Scott takes in donations at the thrift shop on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
Monroe Senior Center program coordinator Tracy Scott takes in donations at the thrift shop on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

All Janet Gilbertson had was a broken bed when she moved from the single room that was her home for six years into a low-income apartment more than a year ago.

Once there, she continued to visit the neighboring Monroe Senior Center. Gilbertson said she formed her social circle while shopping at the Fabulous Finds Thrift Shop, as well as during rounds of Bunco.

“I needed to be with people,” she said. “That was my big thing.”

Gilbertson found decor for her home and other small necessities at the thrift shop; her new friends gave her furniture, bedding and silverware. She said she didn’t expect filling her new home would come so easily.

“My whole house is like a senior center house,” she said with a laugh.

Outreach coordinator Candace Ranz said the thrift shop is one of the senior center’s hidden gems. She and program coordinator Tracy Scott are working to raise awareness to what it has to offer the community.

The two led the store’s renovation and update this summer, giving the interior a fresh coat of paint, redecorating the walls and rearranging products. 

They started the process when the owner of a Main Street clothing business announced doors were about to permanently close. Scott saw advertisements for the final sales, and was able to secure affordable new shelves for the thrift shop.

Ranz said business has more than doubled at the senior center since then, with daily receipts often top out in the triple digits. For the store, that is huge.

The thrift shop’s doors first opened in 2004.

Scott, who started at the center about a year ago, said she tries to keep products as affordable as possible.

“The prices are not high — people who live on a fixed income can buy something that is nice without it breaking the bank,” she said.

Their customer base is varied. Families with young kids come in; some come just to shop, while others browse the inventory while they wait for an activity starts at the facility, Ranz said.

Every item that is for sale has been donated. All of the proceeds go back to funding the senior center.

The organization’s revenue comes from a handful of sources. About 25 percent comes from Snohomish County’s Long Term Care and Aging department, which is under the umbrella of Human Services. A few small meal fees are requested throughout the week, and the annual auction usually generates around $40,000. Community contributions add up to nearly 15 percent of the budget.

Volunteers are responsible for the thrift shop’s daily operations, which keeps costs down, but also limits hours. Scott said everyone on the schedule is a senior — many are members. They will take anyone from the community who wants to help out, she said.

Cheryl Hopkins manned the counter before she became the on-site volunteer chef.

“Oh, I just love junkin’,” she said.

Hopkins is a longtime deal-seeker. She frequents garage sales, vintage stores and thrift shops. She enjoys taking donated products and applying her experience and skills to price them appropriately.

“Being involved here saved my sanity,” Hopkins said of her work as a volunteer and participant in senior center activities.

She said she dealt with depression before becoming a member about four years ago. The cycle is common, she said. People get stuck at home as they age, and having somewhere to go, where they can be part of a community and make friends, is a way to lift their spirits, she said.

About 10,000 senior centers nationwide are serving more than one million older adults every day, according to the National Council on Aging. Those who participate “have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction and lower levels of income.”

The senior center is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the Sky Valley this year. The facility had been known as the East County Senior Center until this winter. The name change was decided during a recent visioning process. 

Volunteers like Hopkins are an integral part of its history. A group of residents founded the facility in 1968, and gave their unpaid time, operating out of an abandoned fruit stand off U.S. Highway 2. The gatherings offered elderly in the east part of Snohomish County the chance to socialize and sit down together for meals. The location changed occasionally over the years before landing at its current site on Sky River Parkway.

Ranz said senior center staff plans to also change the thrift shop name this year. They hope the public will send in suggestions over the next few months, and one will be picked by the end of the year.

Scott said the store will undergo a festive theme starting in November, with items on display for holiday shoppers.

Send a suggested thrift store title to The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for the third Wednesday of each month, when it is closed from 8-11 a.m.