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Volunteers transform Nifty Fifty shop

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Erica Benson -
Nifty Fifty volunteer Paula Popek (right) assists Eileen Collins (left) while Mary Ann Scahurski looks on Jan. 23 in the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center gift shop.

WILLOWBROOK – Before moving to Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook, Dorothy Dinkel and her husband owned what started out as a fix-it shop, and what would later end up as a hobby store.

On Jan. 28, Dinkel was behind the counter of a different kind of shop but still felt right at home.

“They were looking for volunteers, and I said I would do it,” Dinkel said, who has lived at the Chateau for about three years. “I’ve just really liked meeting different people.”

Dinkel is one of three residents who volunteer to work at the Nifty Fifty gift shop on the first floor of the nursing home.

The gift shop sells an array of snack items, jewelry, greeting cards and some knick knacks to anyone who lives, works in or visits the Chateau. There is also an ice cream shop right next door.

Stephanie Mohr, administrator at the Chateau, said in years past the Nifty Fifty was a small store that was run out of an office on the second floor. When that specific manager left the facility, the administration turned the Nifty Fifty over to the activity department, which moved it downstairs to be run out of the ice cream parlor.

“We’ve had a such a great response to that, we thought what better way to get residents involved than to have them actually volunteer at the shop,” Mohr said.

Besides selling items at the Nifty Fifty, volunteers also open the shop, stock the shelves, organize inventory and make sure the shop is in good condition before opening it up again the next day.

Since the shop opened, Mohr said she’s seen a change in not just the volunteers, but in the residents who visit the shop.

“I would say we have more residents that come down on a regular basis and I believe they come down so they can spend that time with the volunteers,” she said. “It’s a great social environment and I think it also allows them to interact with more visitors that are coming through the facility.”

The Nifty Fifty has been open in the new space downstairs for about two months, and prior to that, it was open for about a year with residents volunteering. Mohr said volunteers will work usually two to four hours, but with staggered shifts. Profits from the store also go directly to the resident activity program.

In addition to the Nifty Fifty, the 150-bed Chateau facility also offers three distinct living areas, short-term rehab and long-term care. To further help residents socialize, the Chateau also has a new media room and Internet cafe.

“It makes it much more homelike and really allows them to get off of the units and socialize with residents from other units in those rooms,” she said.

Mohr said for those who work at the Nifty Fifty, it’s not only a chance to socialize, but it’s a chance for them to take satisfaction in knowing they’re contributing and giving back to the facility.

“What do you like best about working at the Nifty Fifty?” Dinkel was asked.

“Taking the money,” she said with a laugh.

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