Bethesda Chamber of Commerce Honors St. John’s Opportunity Shop: 70 Years of Service to the Community
The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce will celebrate St. John’s Opportunity Shop’s 70th anniversary of serving local charities at 1:00 pm, Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Shop, 4504 Walsh St., Chevy Chase.
The event will take place on the front porch of the Walsh Street property (next to the Writer’s Center), site of the now-famous Saturday outdoor sales that allowed the shop to remain open during the pandemic, thrive, and raise a record $30,000 for charities.
The all-volunteer non-profit was founded by the women of St. John’s Norwood Episcopal Church in 1951, but over the years has become a neighborhood institution with a diverse group of supporters.
For 70 years, the shop’s profits have supported local, national, and international charities, often with an eye to supporting children and families, including, Montgomery Hospice, The Children’s Inn at NIH, Second Genesis, Greentree Shelter.
This year, the shop donated $30,000 to St. John’s Afghan Refugee Resettlement Fund, Doctors without Borders, DC Coalition for the Homeless, Betty Ann Krahnke Center for Family Services, Manna Food Center, and Rebuilding Together.
“This has been the most challenging time in our history,” says Liz Mullikin, board chair. The Shop was the only nonprofit thrift in downtown Bethesda-Chevy Chase that remained open during the pandemic.
Dedicated volunteers devoted countless hours to reconfiguring the store space to accord with new health guidelines. Plexiglass shields were installed, and safety protocols enforced--masks, contact tracing and monitoring the number of shoppers inside and out.
The landlord reduced the rent for a time and encouraged the Shop to do business on the front porch of the building, since the indoor space was too confined for safe distancing. Meanwhile, Op Shop supporters donated reams of treasures unearthed during Covid closet cleanings to bring inventory to an all-time high. Donations from Sloan’s and Christ Child Opportunity Shop were welcomed.
The most inspired step was the inauguration of an Outdoor Fair on Saturdays on the porch of the building, where merchandise is displayed on tables for fresh air shopping. People lined up around the block on Saturday mornings, masked, distanced, eager to shop, get out of the house, and most of all, be around other people. Their enthusiasm was infectious: “The Op Shop got me through the pandemic,” said one fan. “I didn’t go out much, but I wouldn’t miss Saturday mornings at the Op Shop!”
The Shop has always been located in Bethesda-Chevy Chase, on Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda Avenue and on Walsh Street since 2006. Thrift shop prices are kept low for everything from household items and small furniture to clothes and jewelry. Today is not so different from 70 years ago when shirts were priced at 10 cents; they are still a bargain now at $4.
During its next decade, the Op Shop plans to expand its hours and reintroduce
the option of consignments, where donors can earn some return on their higher priced items with the rest going to charity. The Shop always needs volunteers and is pleased that many students are participating, getting school credit for volunteer work. All volunteers are welcome – if interested, please call the Shop at 301-654-4999.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 10-4
Donations: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 10-1
Saturday Outdoor Porch Sales will resume in warmer weather
St. John’s Opportunity Shop
4504 Walsh St. (next to Writer’s Center)
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Claudia Kousoulas, Manager 202-487-6740
Liz Mullikin. Op Shop Board Chair 301-654-2232
Joan Filson, Volunteer 301-652-1926
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