Thrift Store Heroes: A Journey From Value To Treasure Hunts

Norma’s been asked countless times where she finds all the ‘cool stuff’ in her home. She proudly gives credit to Goodwill. And the response of many? ‘I need to start going there.’ Based on Norma’s impressive 40-year resume as a Goodwill shopper, I’d say that’s some pretty great advice!

Not only has Norma seen Goodwill evolve over the years, but she’s seen herself change as a customer, too. When she first started shopping at Goodwill, she said she was driven by value. These days, she’s all about the treasure hunt. She’s found some of the zaniest and most artistic items there, which has been perfect for decorating her historic home. The key for her is keeping an open mind. Rarely does she go in for something specific, only to see what is new since her last visit. And she enjoys the rare opportunity to find something offbeat, or wacky, which fits her eclectic tastes.

Norma with her favorite Santa - Bon Noel.

Norma with her favorite Santa – Bon Noel.

1,000 Santas And Counting
Throughout the years, Norma has purchased linens, furniture and clothing from several different Goodwill stores she’s lived closed to – including Medina (and sometimes Brunswick when she’s on the hunt for something special). But her most prized finds are now ones she shares during the holidays with family and friends – and sometimes strangers, too.

To say that Norma is an avid collector of Santa Clauses might be a little bit of an understatement. She owns 1,000, half of which she says are from Goodwill. With so many to choose from, you would think she would have a hard time selecting a favorite, but for Norma it’s easy. It’s a Santa she describes as a disaster when she found it at Goodwill in Medina. She gave it to her artistic daughter, who turned it into a stunning piece.  Norma affectionately named this special Santa ‘Bon Noёl’ (meaning Merry or Good Christmas in French) in honor of her daughter, Bonnie.

All of these pieces and many other wonderful holiday decorations found at Goodwill, can be viewed at Norma’s historic home, which she’s opened up to thousands of people on many occasions. She often receives requests from her town’s leaders to include her home on tour for civic or neighborhood events. However, her favorite gathering was a Christmas party she hosted for her ‘Medina Goodwill family,’ who have become her friends over the years, to show her appreciation for Goodwill.

It’s ‘In’ To Shop At Goodwill
According to Norma, in the past shopping for and wearing second-hand items was often something that was kept secret back in her early days of shopping. Thankfully today, what’s old is new again, and something vintage is often more sought after than new items. Case in point: I’m still rockin’ a rainbow polka-dot top that was my mom’s in the ‘70s.

Norma remembers a turning point she believes transformed the perception of Goodwill into a savvy place to shop – a local television reporter’s announcement that she was purchasing her wedding dress from there. And soon, what was once a store seen as not-so trendy became one that Norma knew all along – it was a place for smart shoppers to find great deals on a variety of quality items.

Thank you to Norma and her more than 40-years of spreading the word about Goodwill!  Her dedication as a shopper as well as donor funds a variety of Goodwill programs that help people in our community find jobs.


~ Kim Rohr