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Marble Falls Library Thrift Store’s ‘elf’ leaving after 24 years

Marble Falls Library Thrift Store volunteer Linda Reed

Christmas is year-round for Marble Falls Library Thrift Store volunteer Linda Reed, but it really comes to life when she and other volunteers decorate the shop and put out the holiday items. After 24 years as a thrift store volunteer, Reed is returning to Wisconsin to take care of her 98-year-old mother. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Sitting in a back room in the Marble Falls Library Thrift Store, longtime volunteer Linda Reed was all smiles as she sorted through boxes of Christmas items. While volunteers perform a number of tasks at the shop, Christmas is Reed’s thing.

“It’s Christmas all year back here,” she said. “I go through boxes and boxes of things, all year.”

However, after 24 years of volunteering with the Marble Falls Library Thrift Store, she’s boxing up and displaying her last ornaments at the store. In a few weeks, Reed is returning to her home state of Wisconsin to care for her 98-year-old mother, Emily Winters.

“I’ll miss it here,” Reed said. “It’s been such a wonderful place, and the people, well, we’re just like family here.”

Reed is one of many volunteers who keep the Marble Falls Library Thrift Store going. The shop raises money for the Marble Falls Public Library. 

After growing up and carving out a career for herself in Wisconsin, minus a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Reed relocated to the Marble Falls area more than two decades ago in retirement.

However, sitting at home, even with her husband, wasn’t going well for Reed.

“I needed something to do,” she said while going through a box of Christmas stockings. “I just couldn’t sit around.”

Marble Falls Library Thrift Store volunteer Linda Reed
While it might look like a back room to most people, Marble Falls Library Thrift Store volunteer Linda Reed sees the space as her little corner of Christmas. (Reed removed her face mask, which all volunteers wear, for the photo.) Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

While in Marble Falls one day, Reed stopped by the Marble Falls Library Thrift Store, at a previous location. She browsed through it and then decided it would be a nice place to volunteer.

At the time, Reed didn’t know she’d become a 24-year volunteer veteran of the store, and the Christmas elf. 

“We all kind of have our things we do here,” she said. “And Christmas is mine.”

It didn’t start out that way. Reed just volunteered where needed until then-thrift store manager Helen Stover pulled her aside. 

“She told me I was going to do Christmas,” Reed recalled, then with an elvish chuckle, added: “And if you know Helen, you didn’t say ‘no.’” 

Reed found her niche at the thrift store.

“I just love it,” she said. “I love going through the boxes that come in. People around (this community) are so generous. A lot of things that are donated have never been used.”

Throughout the year, Reed pores over the boxes, bags, and tins of Christmas items. She checks them to ensure they’re good enough to sell, researches their value, and then prices them. But the real magic, she said, happens the day before the thrift store opens up with its Christmas items on display.

“On the day before, a bunch of volunteers come in, and we decorate and put the Christmas stuff out,” Reed said. “It’s a lot of work. But (store manager) Virginia (Cervantes) is so supportive in what we do.”

The Christmas crew went to work on Nov. 8 under Reed’s eye.

“When we’re all done, even now all these years, I step back and cry,” she said.

And when the stored opened the following day, a few tears welled up in Reed’s eyes again.

“It’s so rewarding when you come in that day and the customers are lined up waiting to get in,” she said. “And then, you see all the smiles on their faces when the walk in and see all the Christmas things. Especially the kids. They are so happy.”

She’ll bring those smiles with her to warm her on the cold Wisconsin nights that lay ahead. Though Reed loves her little corner of Christmas at the thrift store, it’s not what she’ll miss the most.

“The people here,” she said. “I will miss them so much. They are all so special, like a family to me.”

The Marble Falls Library Thrift Store, located at 300 Avenue J, can always use volunteers. Call the store at 830-693-5120 for more information. The thrift store is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.