San Carlos Thrift Store Raises Money, Fosters Community for Half a Century - NBC Bay Area
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San Carlos Thrift Store Raises Money, Fosters Community for Half a Century

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    The Family Tree, run by the Red-Car-Bel Auxiliary, has donated more than a million dollars to the Peninsula Family Service nearly half a century. (Published Thursday, April 6, 2017)

    It started in a garage in the 1960s with a group of women who wanted to give back.

    Nearly half a century and a million dollars later, the Family Tree, a nonprofit thrift store in San Carlos, is bursting at the seams with clothing, shoes and home goods. 

    Three long-time volunteers, Nina, Josephine and Patricia, can be overheard as they discuss neighborhood happenings, family, and business while they unpack the day’s donations.

    "It forms a lot of friendships. You can hear the girls back there. They’re chatting away," said Trudy Somrak, president of the Red-Car-Bel Auxiliary, a nonprofit in Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmont. "They look forward to coming together every Wednesday. It’s so nice to hear them."

    Red-Car-Bel Auxiliary is one of three auxiliaries supporting Peninsula Family Service to raise funds for and increase awareness about local at-risk populations. The Family Tree is Red-Car-Bel's primary funding source.

    "Each one has its own unique way to assist Peninsula Family Service and this is the only resale shop," said Deborah Miller, the director of advancement at Peninsula Family Service.

    The Hillsborough and Foothill auxilliaries each hold pop-up events, including luncheons, auctions and a spring gala, throughout the year, but the Peninsula Family Service said the thrift shop's consistent financial support is crucial to its work.

    "I think one of the most important aspects of Red-Car-Bel is that stability of funding that they provide – the quarterly funding is so, so helpful, particularly … when our resources from grants or …individual support kind of tend to dry up a little bit because we’re nearing the end of our fiscal year," said Rachel Monaco, annual giving manager at the Peninsula Family Service.

    Somrak said a woman who has been volunteering at the store for decades is now celebrating her 100th birthday with her colleagues.

    "She has a following," Somrak said. "She has a group of people that come in to see her every Saturday and if she’s not here, there’s always people asking, ‘Where’s Helen today? Where’s Helen?’"

    The 70-member team attracts and retains volunteers because of its friendly atmosphere, Somrak said. But the Family Tree fills more than just social calendars.

    The thrift shop says it has donated more than $1 million to the Peninsula Family Services over the last 49 years and continues to contribute between $60,000 and $70,000 annually to the organization.

    "There's a lot of people that need help," said Nina Denton, a volunteer with the Family Tree. "That's basically why we're here."

    Rebecca Greenway covers news on the San Francisco Peninsula. Connect with her on Facebook or send an email to rebecca.greenway@nbcuni.com.