The patriotic quilt that will be raffled for the Thrift and Gift Shop for the Christmas in Orangefield celebration.

RECORD PHOTOS: David Ball

David Ball – For The Record

There’s one place in Orange that keeps arts and crafts alive while assisting seniors at the same time.

This month marks 43rd anniversary for the Thrift and Gift Shop in Orange on September 12, according to a prior Record article.

Kay Nuss, a staff member with the Thrift and Gift Shop, said volunteers come in everyday and everyone gets along well with others.

These various activities provided seniors getting together at least weekly, or even more often at “their shop” which led to many new friendships.

“We’ve had really nice new people come in here. They say ‘we didn’t know you’re here,'” she said.

It started downtown off Green Avenue as a place senior citizens could sell crafts and such to make a little extra money. They also sold lunches for $3, which was very popular with the people that worked downtown. Ladies gathered to make quilts and still gather for quilting a couple of days a week now.

The nonprofit shop was organized in 1973 by a group of community leaders who wanted to give senior citizens a way to supplement their income by selling their handmade items, and preserving crafts that had long been a part of American households such as quilting, knitting, crocheting, and sewing, read a press release from the  organization.

Twelve years ago, the shop moved to the old Salk Elementary School located at 350 37th Street thanks to the efforts of volunteer Wynona Nance. Some remodeling had to be completed before they could open for business

They also offer handmade crafts and gifts, books and magazines, collectibles and vendor heirlooms, antiques of all kinds and quality used clothing.

A few of the early organizers were Pat and Glen Putnam, Velma Jeter, Iris Allen, and Inez Hubbard. Some of the volunteers, Mary Guillot, Velma Couture, Margaret Louviere, and Evelyn Adams, have been active for more than 30 years.

This shop was successful and was supported by an appreciative community, it read. The Thrift and Gift Shop in turn gave their support to the organizations of the Heritage Center and Putnam Place.

“Our shop is still best known for the beautiful quilts produced,” according to the press release. “The quilters make two anniversary quilts each year; chances are sold for $1 each or six for $5. They also quilt many heirloom tops for the public and will make special baby quilts.”

During the 1980s, handmade quilts were one of the top collectibles.

“Unfortunately, China began to flood the market with quilts that were poor quality but priced much lower. At that time members voted to let volunteers sell heirlooms to supplement the shop’s income,” it stated.

Charles “CJ’ Benoit, 90, who will turn 91 in October, has been a volunteer at Thrift and Gift almost from the start. He and his son Randy look after the bargain room which has garage sale type deals. Benoit also earns money on his woodworking projects. It was one of his birdhouses that kicked the shop over its first $100,000 decades ago.

“Mr. B. said he wants to be productive. You don’t have to stay at home and dry up,” Nuss said.

The quilters from Thrift and Gift also demonstrated their art at the Oil Centennial in Orangefield at the Cormier Museum two years ago and at the tunnel boat races in Orange. They were such a hit they returned for the Christmas in Orangefield celebration in December at Jewel Cormier Park. They also picked the raffle winner for their annual quilt fundraiser at the event.

They will bring a raffle quilt to this year’s Christmas in Orangefield too.

One man, Bill O’Quinn, takes some of the merchandise to a mission in Mexico to help the residents. They also helped victims of the tornados in Alabama and Oklahoma a few years ago.

Their shop mission statement is they are a nonprofit small business operated where senior citizens and disabled people can sell their handmade gifts and family heirlooms at a low markup so they get maximum return for their labor.

It also provides a place where the members can meet their friends, volunteer for work and enjoy social activities.

In addition to Nuss, other staff members and vendors are Nelda Albritton, Deneta Gravett, Tonyia Barnwell, and Mary Holland.

The Thrift and Gift is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and is located at 350 N. 37th St. Call (409) 886-7649 for more information.