For first time Christmas shoppers and those who wait until the last minute, here's a tip that may save you some money.
It's visiting at the Lehigh Acres Thrift Store on Homestead Road, says Damon Shelor, who manages the very large store for the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Foundation. Shelor is also a member of the Kiwanis Club and is a director in the foundation.
"We've been here for a long time and we have served many citizens of Lehigh and those who are visiting the community. We have a lot to offer and when people come and visit the store, they are usually surprised at all we have," Shelor said.
Lehigh Acres Thrift Store manager Damon Sehlor with some of the antiques are for sale at the store.
If you started trying to name all the items for sale in the 12,000 square feet of space, comparable to some of Lehigh's other retail stores, you may not be able to stop. There are literally 25,000 plus different items for sale.
Shelor said everything from furniture and TV sets to clothes for men, women and children, glassware, fine china and Christmas items and on it goes.
"If someone is looking for something, they more than likely can find it here. We have books for the readers on your Christmas list. We even cater to the fishermen on your list because we have several plastic worms that will bring the fish in," he laughed.
The Lehigh Thrift Store is busy, too. Shelor said as many as a thousand people may pass through the store on a weekly basis and that most shoppers go out with something.
"For items that carry higher, yet fair prices, we can even bargain sometimes," he said.
The store is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is a possibility in the future that it may be open longer, especially just before Christmas.
It is also the location for the Business After Hours on Dec. 20 when the Kiwanis Thrift Store becomes a host to members of the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce and to other in the public who want to come and enjoy the festivities which include food and a possible visit from Santa Claus himself.
The time for the Business After Hours is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For chamber members, the cost is $8 and for the public, the price is $10. It all goes for a good cause for the chamber. And the Kiwanis Club has been a good member of the chamber for several years.
The items in the store are "gently used," as Shelor says it. But many things are as good and new, except the price tag is much, much cheaper than if you buy it somewhere else, even in a consignment store.
All items are donated to the thrift store by members of the community. Often when folks close up their homes in Lehigh and move back up north, or if a member of the family has passed away in Lehigh and family members come to clear out the house, donations of furniture and other items are given to the store, which provides a service to go and pick up the items. Others replace items in their home and give their nice furniture to the store.
"We appreciate all we are given. But we do not accept junk the items must be in very good condition and in working order. We do cleaning of the items and we make sure they work, things like TV sets," Shelor said.
And talking about television sets, the thrift store has an ample supply of them and they are in great working order.
"If someone wants a larger screen, or a TV set for the kitchen or for the bedroom, we have them here. All you have to do is set them up for cable. Many people have purchased wide-screen large TVs and are giving us their other TV sets," Shelor said.
The thrift store has been in service in Lehigh since 1989 and has had three additions made to it because of needed retail space. Shelor even hinted that the store may enlarge again or could even move to another site in Lehigh, but any plans for that right now are only possibilities, he said.
Everything donated to the store by the public can be considered as tax deductions. So if you donate, keep your receipts. And if you give now, you can take it off your 2012 tax returns.
When asked what are some of the largest purchases made at the Lehigh Thrift Store, Shelor said furniture was a big seller.
"We have some very nice and attractive sofas. We have designer chairs for the dining room and we have bedroom furniture and we have a good selection of desks, bureaus and other items," he said.
"We have fine china to thousands of other pieces of collectible glassware we have just about all you can think of, golf clubs, exercise equipment that is in really excellent condition, but at very inexpensive prices," said. They also have computers for those who want to jump into the high tech age.
What is surprising is that there are many types of clothing for children and for men and women and there are price tags on them from when they were first purchased. They have stuffed animals and games for the children and again, all at reasonable prices.
There are plans to being what Shelor calls "an antique boutique" at the store, but that is a bit down the road. However, there are some refinished antiques in the lobby now that can be purchased at a fair price.
Shelor said the Lehigh Thrift Store does around $250,000 in sales each year and after salaries for the half a dozen employees, everything, you heard it, everything is given back to the community as scholarships, donations and checks for several other causes. It may well be the largest club foundation in Lehigh that give away so much money.
They provide a voucher program with Lehigh Community Services, which is handled by Rae Nicely, the executive director at Lehigh Community Services. She can give someone a voucher and they can take it to the thrift store to buy needed items, many times things like furniture.
"We are fortunate enough to give $50,000 a year in local scholarships,. We help to support youth programs, cultural programs, seniors and concerts in Lehigh. We provided 250 turkey dinners at Thanksgiving for people in Lehigh. We also are a drop-off site for eye glasses and for older cameras. We send them to places that perform missions by helping others. Locally, eye glasses are given to the Lions Club.
"The holiday is close. Don't forget that there may be just that certain thing that we may have here. And we will "haggle" if the customer wants to haggle with us," he laughed.
But if you want to haggle, ask for Shelor. He is there most days that the store is open.