Giving Back in Buffalo City

RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program)

Step into Ye Old Schoolhouse Shoppe in Buffalo City, and you'll find a bargain on every shelf. The popular thrift store in southern Buffalo County sells t-shirts for 50 cents, jeans are one dollar, and several jackets can be found for just three dollars. The store is also filled with a dedicated group of RSVP volunteers happily sorting donations, stocking the shelves, and assisting customers.

Look a little closer and you'll see a plaque from the Tri-Community Fire Department, a citation from former State Representative Barbara Gronemus, a certificate of appreciation from the Buffalo City Council, and a commendation from the State of Wisconsin hanging on the walls near the cash register.

According to store volunteer Ruth Leahy, the letters and plaques are the result of years of giving back to the community.

"You can see that a lot of people appreciate what we do and they support us," Leahy said. "When people shop here and spend their money here, they know we give back and we keep it in the community, and that's important to them."

In the past 18 years, Ye Old Schoolhouse Shoppe has given back more than $130,000 to schools, parks, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. In recent years this includes $500 for trees at Goose Lake Park, $2,000 for a new boardwalk on the beach in Alma, $5,000 for the Scenic Valley Swimming Pool, $6,000 for the Scenic Valley Ambulance, $2,000 to the Buffalo County Sheriff's Department, and $7,000 to schools and libraries in the area for books and reading programs.

Historical societies, school groups, fire departments, the American Red Cross and dozens of other local organizations have received sizeable donations from Ye Old Schoolhouse Shoppe. Store volunteers also chaired the fund raising efforts which raised thousands of dollars for new playground equipment at a park located just two blocks from the store.

"I think this store is probably one of the best things I've ever been involved with," said Leahy. "All the money spent at the store stays here, and the projects we do are absolutely fantastic."

A group of 30 volunteers (16 regulars and 14 substitutes) work three-hour shifts at the store. As an incentive for volunteers, $1.25 per hour served is donated to a charity or organization of their choice. It's an added benefit for many of the volunteers who say they enjoy every minute spent working at the store.

"Someone asked me years ago to come here, and I just feel it's worthwhile and always interesting," said volunteer Ruthmary Farner. "And it's fun, too. We have a lot of fun working here."

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