When Elisa Garza walks through the Marble Falls Library Thrift Store doors on her volunteer days, her first words are usually, “Hola, familia.”
“I love it here,” Garza said. “This is my family, my second family, but we’re like a family here.”
She then added with a laugh, “This is my time away from my regular work at home.”
Garza is one of the several volunteers who keep the thrift store open and operating. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, store manager Virginia Cervantez said the number of volunteers has sharply dropped.
“We understand. People are concerned and watching out for their health,” she said. “We’re going by the (COVID-19) guidance of the Texas state health department. We’re following the same rules as other stores.”
When volunteers arrive for their shift, they take their temperature before entering the building. The staff and volunteers sanitize everything, including all of the donations and items in the back and on the floor. Just about every hour, the cashiers sanitize the garments on the main floor and continually wipe down surfaces.
“We’re doing everything we can to protect our volunteers and our customers,” Cervantez said.
Garza agreed. She realizes some people might be concerned about volunteering amid a pandemic, but, she pointed out, the thrift store staff works hard to protect everyone.
“They gave us these face shields,” Garza said. “We’re cleaning things all the time. We keep social distancing. Virginia keeps us safe. She does her part to make sure we’re protected and safe.”
Garza, a 16-year volunteer veteran, said the job is more than just setting things out for shoppers. The Marble Falls Library Thrift Store raises funds for the public library and helps the community in other ways.
“We donate a lot of stuff to people or other nonprofits that need it,” she said. “It’s a good feeling to help people. We don’t just make money; we have a purpose here.”
Plus, it’s fun.
“I worked for 35 years at Texas Instruments. I got paid and I wasn’t happy,” Garza said. “I’ve worked here for 16 years, don’t get paid, but I’m happy.”
As a volunteer, Garza works two days a week but comes in on other days if the store needs extra hands. And it’s never a dull day.
“You’d be amazed at the things that come through here,” she said. “There are times when I’m like, ‘What is this?’ It’s fun to try and figure some of it out.”
She’s also became somewhat of a history sleuth. People have donated items from years gone by, and Garza digs in to find the story behind them. Some of the things she recognizes as items her parents once used.
“I’ve learned a lot,” she added with a grin.
To volunteer or for more information, call the Marble Falls Library Thrift Store at 830-693-5120. Located at 300 Avenue J in Marble Falls, the store is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Donations are accepted on the back dock 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.