Thrift store increases space with hopes of more funding for cancer patients

astice@islandpacket.comDecember 5, 2011 

The Off Island Thrift store on Bluffton Parkway is about to get bigger with the purchase of the building next door.

The thrift store, which benefits Bluffton's Cancer Awareness Foundation, will be connected to the neighboring building with a breezeway expected to be completed by January, foundation director Karen Matthews said.

The current space soon will have triple the amount of clothing, shoes and other apparel, while the new space -- which formerly housed StoneWorks and was in foreclosure -- will be devoted to home furnishings.

Matthews said the new layout should fuel sales because customers will be better able to see the merchandise, instead of sifting through items jumbled in bins at the back of the store.

Since opening in 1999, the organization's thrift space has grown from 3,500 to 46,000 square feet.

All proceeds from Off Island Thrift, which has another location in Bluffton's Plantation Business Park, benefit local cancer patients by helping them pay bills or medical expenses while they are out of work and undergoing treatment, Matthews said.

"That's what we're really excited about," she said. "It will change how much money we can give out to patients."

The expansion comes on the heels of the foundation's fourth annual Guardian Angel program, open to those unable to make ends meet because of illnesses.

The foundation supports between 25 and 30 cancer patients each month, often contributing $1,000 to each, Matthews said. But in December, the nonprofit group disperses about twice that much to local patients who fill out an application for the angel program.

This year's angel event will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 16, when the foundation will host an evening with music and food and distribute the gifts and financial contributions to local patients.

Program applications are available at the foundation's thrift store in Plantation Business Park and must be submitted by Saturday.

"Last year, we gave away a car to a lady who had no way of getting to her appointments for cancer treatment," Matthews said.

This year, Matthews is hoping to give out more than $50,000 at the event.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content:

Guardian Angel program helps families make ends meet, Dec. 20, 2010

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