Many of New Jersey's nonprofit hospitals employ the same business model to raise money for programs and capital projects.
Auxiliaries at hospitals in Vineland, Somers Point and Middle Township run their own thrift stores that convert donations of clothing and housewares into money for everything from new cancer wings to medical equipment.
The strategy is popular because it works, said Annette Scully, manager of Cape Regional Medical Center's stores in Cape May Court House and North Cape May.
"The money our shop raised has helped expand the cancer wing, built a daycare center on the campus grounds and donated X-ray equipment," she said.
The hospital's in-house thrift shop was so popular that the auxiliary opened a second location last fall called Et Cetera on Bayshore Road in North Cape May.
"We sell everything from housewares, home decor and seasonal items to clothing and winter coats. Anything you'll find in a small department store," she said.
The auxiliary relies on four paid employees and additional volunteers. The auxiliary also helps provide clothing for other charities or people in crisis, she said.
The second-hand clothing market has shed a lot of its stigma in recent years, she said.
"I had 25 years of retail-management experience. I didn't know what to expect," she said.
Her stores look and operate like a conventional Cape May County retail operation.
"We really want our shops to have a boutique feel. We have hardwood floors and professional clothing racks. We want people to feel comfortable. We want it to be like any other retail experience," she said.
"We do a fantastic business year round. We have clientele who carry us through the winter months," she said.
Shore Medical Center operates two thrift shops on Route 9, one at the Somers Point Shopping Center and the other at the South Shore Plaza in Upper Township.
Auxiliary Director Cathy Fennen, of Northfield, said the model works because all inventory is donated.
"So we have the potential to make 100 percent profit off everything we get," she said.
The auxiliary pledged $2.5 million for the hospital's new surgical pavilion. It raises about $250,000 per year through its thrift shop and an equal amount from golf tournaments and other fund-raisers, she said.
The auxiliary has three employees for its thrift shops. It also runs the hospital's gift shop. Fennen said the auxiliary's 80 volunteers deserve the most credit for the thrift shops' fund-raising success.
Along with clothing and housewares, the shops offer collectibles that attract their own audience of customers.
Donors are eligible for a tax write-off in many cases, she said.
"We're lucky. People support us because we're the local hospital. They feel they're giving to something they're connecting with," she said. "We get a good stream of donations."
The auxiliaries typically sell unwanted clothing by the pound to a recycling company for use on the foreign secondhand market.
Inspira Medical Center has an auxiliary-run thrift shop called Twice Loved Treasures at 20 W. Park Ave., in Vineland.
The shop has all the same fund-raising benefits of other thrift shops, spokesman Paul Simon said. But Inspira also uses its thrift shop to educate its Vineland customers about health issues.
"We've almost had mini-seminars or lectures at certain times of the year," he said. "It serves as an extension of our communications channel."
Simon said the thrift shop's employees and volunteers put together outfits of different sizes for use in the hospital for when patients are in need of clothing before they are released.
"We have a storage closet on patient floors where they keep these packages of clothing," Simon said. "If someone needs them, they can wear them home."
And while AtlantiCare's two auxiliaries do not have a thrift shop, they do raise money through retail with jewelry and flower sales, among others throughout the year, spokeswoman Elizabeth Woerner said. They also established the Pine Cone Gift Shop at the mainland campus, which has been raising money for the hospital since 1975.
Contact Michael Miller:
Hospital thrift shops
Shore Medical Center
Marmora Thrift Shop
232 S. Shore Road, South Shore Plaza, Marmora
Somers Point Thrift Shop
Somers Point Shopping Center
Route 9, Somers Point
Cape Regional Medical Center
302 N. Main St., Route 9, next to the hospital
Cape May Court House
3845 Bayshore Road, Lower Township
Inspira Medical Center
Twice Loved Treasures
20 W. Park Ave., Vineland