Cora Brown is a day manager at the Penny Savers’ Thrift Shop in North Delta. The store

Cora Brown is a day manager at the Penny Savers’ Thrift Shop in North Delta. The store

A penny saved… and a hospital helped

North Delta thrift shop helps Surrey Memorial Hospital buy medical equipment.

The penny may be out of production at the Royal Canadian Mint, but volunteers are still hard at work helping people save pennies at a North Delta thrift store – all for a good cause.

On a busy morning in the sorting room of The Penny Savers’ Thrift Shop, Nina Taylor and Alice Pogue are sifting through incoming donations: Clothes, stuffed toys, dishes, the odd teapot…

“I just like to work,” says Taylor, tagging small, gold-rimmed plates with price stickers.

Both ladies will be 82 this year.

They’re among 55 active volunteers and members of the Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) Auxiliary who run the thrift store to support the SMH Foundation.

Day manager Cora Brown is eager to show a visitor around the store.

The showroom is divided into sections like any department store – mens’ and ladies’ apparel, shoes, toys, sporting goods, books and household items.

There’s lots to see: Friendly, blue-vested volunteers, a gaggle of mannequins watching the clothing racks, old-school LPs next to DVDs, Dutch wooden clogs, even a pair of $8 sombreros.

Hidden away are the situational necessities: A staff washroom filled with boxes of VHS tapes, a storage room stuffed with seasonal items (Christmas, Halloween, etc.), a back-room shelf with single shoes (their twins are in the showroom), and a sorting room with its topography modified by a small mountain of bags filled with clothes to be sifted through.

Brown has been part of the Penny Savers’ Thrift Store action since 2004.

She started volunteering in Newton at the last of a succession of locations in Surrey.

The shop, which moved to North Delta that same year, is now closer to her home. (As well as being in charge on her shift, she’s also provides the ride for Taylor, a fellow North Deltan).

Not long ago, Brown was offered the role of store coordinator, a liaison between the Auxiliary and the thrift shop, but being of a hands-on, non-bureaucratic nature, declined.

“I don’t do meetings. I don’t do cash.”

Instead, she and the day managers tend to the volunteers, donated items, merchandise and customers while the Auxiliary staff take care of the books.

It’s not always easy at the shop.

There are rare shoplifters and even customers who have tried to bring their own homemade price tags.

Out back, three full-sized couches lay next to two dumpsters. The Auxiliary will eventually have to pay remove them.

Despite signs several warning sings around the building, some people continue to dump unwanted items (TVs, microwaves and mattresses) at the back door after hours.

“People don’t read signs,” laments Brown. “Do they care?”

She soon relents.

“But that’s okay. (This business is) what makes money for the hospital.”

Auxiliary secretary Lila Kawasaki says SMH Auxiliary is using money collected from thrift shop sales to fulfill their pledge of $250,000 (over three to five years) to buy medical equipment for the hospital.

The annual 100 Days to Give Campaign received $40,000 in March 2012 and is expected to receive about $65,000 next month – with the entire campaign to be matched by an equal donation from businessman and philanthropist Jim Pattison.

n Surrey Memorial Hospital Auxiliary needs volunteers for both their SMH lottery booth (Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Mondays/Wednesdays/Thursdays from 12:30-4 p.m.) and in the Penny Savers’ Thrift Shop, 11961 82 Ave. (there are various shifts). Detailed descriptions are available at

Applicants must be at least 16 years old and able to commit to a regular (once/twice a week) schedule for a minimum of six months until Aug. 31.  Suitable applicants will be contacted for an interview and those selected for placement must provide references.

For details or to apply, contact Volunteer Resources at 604-588-3381 or email download an application, visit