Behind the scenes – what really happens in Santa’s workshop!

The ALI thrift shop is stocked with holiday merchandise – lights, ornaments, Hanukkah-themed items, tabletop linens and decor, and much, much, MUCH more!

Now if this were a movie, little singing birds and mice wearing adorable clothing would have miraculously appeared in the dead of night to put these fantastic holiday treasures on the shelves.

In real life, there’s no fairy godmother with a magic wand to make this happen.  It’s all done by – you guessed it – your devoted ALI volunteers!

We collected 200 plastic storage bins of holiday merchandise during the year (thanks to all you devoted supporters of ALI who donated your holiday decorations to us!) And every donation that went into those bins was inspected, cleaned, priced, and wrapped for protection before it went into storage.  Our three “holiday merchandising managers” – Libby, Robin, and Sharyl – did this ALL YEAR LONG.  You know how you feel after you finally put the decorations away? Imagine doing that week after week!

It’s taking ALL of our volunteers, working behind the scenes, to unwrap everything in those 200 bins and put it out in the shop for you.  So every Tuesday in November, we’ll empty a few more bins and have MORE HOLIDAY ITEMS on the shelves for you.  Come by on our special November Tuesday shopping days to see what’s new!

And if you see an ALI volunteer with a name tag that reads Libby, Robin, or Sharyl – give her a big “Thank you” for filling all those bins!

February 14th is around the corner. Shop with us!

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the greeting card aisle, the calendar strikes again. It’s Valentine’s Day! Well, not quite, but it’s on the way.

Now we know all of you headed over to the cell phone store at the end of December so you could trade in your phone before the free upgrade expired. We also know that 97% of you have yet to download the instruction manual for your new phone, and thus have NO IDEA how to program a reminder to buy a Valentine gift for your significant other into your phone.

You have two options before February 14:

– Download the manual, which will appear in teeny tiny print on your cell phone screen. Since you can only read one paragraph at a time when you enlarge the text enough to be visible, it’ll take you 5,294 hours to go through it.

– Go to the Assistance League of Irvine’s Thrift Shop RIGHT NOW and pick out all your Valentine gifts from our selection of incredible bargains. We have jewelry, crystal, china, silver, and picture frames. For the kids, we have a whole menagerie of Valentine-themed stuffed animals. We have the ever-popular DVDs, CDs, and books. And if a special Valentine’s Day dinner or party is in your future, we’ve got the clothes.

See how easy a holiday can be? Now pull out that new phone and start making Valentine’s Day plans!

California Dreamin’ – Thrift Shop Road Trip

If you drove by the thrift shop a couple of Mondays ago and saw a group of ALI volunteers in their blue aprons clustered around a red Thunderbird convertible in front of the shop, you weren’t California Dreamin’. That was a visit from National Assistance League’s Anne Salenger, and her “Thrift Shop Road Trip.”

Anne is traveling around the country, visiting and blogging about different Assistance League thrift stores. We were thrilled to have Anne join us for one of our Monday behind-the-scenes work sessions. Our shop was filled with eager ALI volunteers sorting, cleaning, and changing out the merchandise for the coming week. Anne’s visit came just after our Holiday Extravaganza, so the shop looked especially festive with all our holiday items. Anne was able to see first-hand the incredible effort that goes into getting the shop ready to open for the week each Wednesday morning.

While everything ALI does is for our own community, it’s inspiring for us to be able to share our story with other chapters – and to learn from them as well. We hope Anne and her “Road Trip” come back soon for another visit!

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Small Business Saturday is Coming!

SAVE THE DATE FOR SOME…

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Mark this date on your calendar! Saturday, November 29 (that’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving) is Small Business Saturday. It’s going to be a fantastic day at the ALI Thrift Shop, and you won’t want to miss out. This special once-a-year event will feature:

– Prices so low, no layaway plan is needed!

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– Free giveaways to adult shoppers through random drawings – no purchase required! We’ll have lots of great prizes, including Starbucks gift items from the Starbucks at Alton Square, and gourmet sauces from Sola Jams.

– Free face-painting & balloon animals for kids (parent must be present) by our  Assisteen volunteers, from 1 pm to 3 pm.

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  – Our popular Mystery Discount off your entire bill! Pick a token from the Mystery Discount Jar after your items are totaled at the register. Whatever number you pick, we’ll give you that percentage off your entire purchase.

– Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 as a way to draw attention to Main Street businesses. These businesses create jobs and tie the community together. They’re staffed (like our thrift shop) by your friends and neighbors. And they’re often the first to respond when there’s a need for help in the community, because they’re part of its daily life.You’ll have Black Friday to visit the national chain stores.

Save Small Business Saturday for the ALI thrift shop! You will be dancing down the aisles happy!

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Welcome to the ALI Superhero Universe!

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You’ve heard of the Marvel Superhero Universe? Welcome to the ALI Superhero Universe!

Just like the Marvel Universe, the ALI Universe is filled with superheroes in disguise. Most of the time, these people lead ordinary lives, just like you and me. They walk their dogs. They shop at Trader Joe’s. They post pictures of their vacations on Facebook.

But several times a month, their cell phones ping with the special “ALI Superheroes” signal. Answering the call, they shed their normal identities to become – ALI volunteers! With no special powers except for their huge hearts, they enter the secret lair known as the ALI Community Outreach Center/Thrift Shop, and from there go forth to help their neighbors in need.

The best thing about the ALI Superheroes Universe is – anyone can be a part of it! No radioactive spiders, genetic mutations, or alien microchips are necessary. All you need is the desire to make a difference in the lives of those in our community who need a helping hand.

AND – unlike the Marvel Universe – there’s no limit to the number of superheroes! VOLUNTEERS WANTED – NO SPECIAL POWERS REQUIRED.

(Watch for ALI’s upcoming ad campaign, featuring some of our superheroes in these great costumes, which were designed by Stephanie Lee. Stephanie is a former intern at the ALI thrift shop who is attending design school, and often contributes fashion ideas to our blog.)

ALI RECEIVES AWARD AT CITY HALL

041605810456467_10151867185532255_4859917203299874926_nAssistance League of Irvine was honored on May 31st by the Irvine Prevention Coalition and Irvine Community Drug Prevention. We were one of three groups and 15 individuals receiving awards at City Hall for outstanding work in support of Irvine youth.

ALI was nominated by Susan Holt, a school social worker who coordinates the Irvine Family Resource Program. In her nomination, Susan wrote: “The Assistance League has provided basic needs support through their Operation School Bell Program for decades, assisting low income students to be ready to learn by providing backpacks, school supplies and clothing to needy families in IUSD. Over the last few years, they have gone above and beyond OSB by making additional funds available to help some of our especially challenged K-12 students with graduation costs, bus passes to get to school, additional clothing and gift cards for extra school supplies. For these students, even getting to school can be a challenge. The help provided by AL funds helps them feel more prepared and ready to move forward with their education. It is hard to describe what a difference these supports make for homeless kids who may also be dealing with extreme family problems and financial pressures, personal challenges, multiple moves, and housing and food insecurity.”

The Irvine Prevention Coalition was formed in 1995 to bring together resources and services to support children, youth, and families. Today there are over 60 community partners participating in the coalition. Their mission is to support a safe and caring community by working together to provide prevention strategies and coordinated services designed to reduce substance abuse, violence and related problems among our youth.   Preventive strategies take many forms – education about drug and alcohol abuse, encouragement of healthy lifestyles, and giving young people the tools to be successful in school and life without drugs.

We are honored to be recognized for Operation School Bell. But we couldn’t provide everything we give the kids through OSB without the continued support of our thrift store shoppers and donors! Thank you!

FATHER’S DAY AT THE THRIFT SHOP

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Father’s Day is Sunday, June 15. It’s a special day to honor and remember our dads and all they mean to us. That means kisses, hugs, words of thanks, and . . . presents.

We love them, but they can be hard to buy for. Here are some items CURRENTLY at the thrift shop that might inspire you. (Remember, all our merchandise is one-of-a-kind, so if it sounds interesting, get over to the shop right away or it may be gone.)

CLOTHING: We have a fantastic selection of Hawaiian-style shirts, including many Reyn Spooner and Tommy Bahama patterns, that are perfect for summer pool parties and barbecues. And we have lots of shorts to go with them!

BICYCLING: If Dad is a serious cyclist, we have several biking suits.

WATER SPORTS: We have swim fins and board shorts for the beach.

BOOKS AND RECORDS: We ALWAYS have a variety of books – whether Dad likes mysteries, thrillers, history, or politics, we most likely have a book he’d enjoy. If he’s into vintage vinyl, we have a collection of records by various artists. And we have a lovely gift book titled, “Poems for Fathers” that says it all.

GAMES AND DVDs: Right now we have a “Law & Order” board game and some movie trivia games, plus our ever-popular DVD section.

GOLF (you KNEW this was coming . . .): If Dad likes golf, look no further. Just program our address, 2452 Alton, into your GPS and start the car. We have golf balls; a putting trainer with artificial turf (this is a really good buy – this item is WAY more expensive at the golf superstore); a “Condo Golf” game; a golf club cleaning kit; many, many golf books priced at $1 or less; a golf-themed water bottle; a golf-themed lamp; a golf throw pillow; golf mugs; golf stationery. And more!

FOR THE DAD WHO HAS EVERYTHING: We have brand-new Weber barbecue accessories, ties (of course!), a set of highball glasses with beautiful pictures of game birds on them, and a framed collage called “I Heard It From My Dad.”

And if you’re still stumped for ideas, bring Dad to the thrift shop and let him pick out something for himself! Happy Father’s Day to all of our wonderful Dads!

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night Mortgage!

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Recently ALI held a very, very special celebration in our Community Outreach Center upstairs from the thrift shop. Yes, shoppers and readers, we’ve done it! We’ve burned our mortgage!

Let’s go back in time a few years, and we’ll explain how we fulfilled this dream of every Irvine property owner. Many of you may remember our original thrift shop on Main Street, near John Wayne Airport. We had a vision of buying a property, where we would have room to host our Operation School Bell clients, provide additional resources to the community, and house our thrift shop. We started a Capital Campaign, and the City of Irvine helped by awarding us a Community Development Block Grant. And in July 2009, we were able to purchase our business condominium unit at 2452 Alton! We made a down payment and took out a 10-year mortgage with a balloon payment due in July, 2019 (typical for commercial real estate loans).

Our new location was an immediate success, and soon our thrift shop was bringing in enough money for us to expand our philanthropic programs AND have extra cash. Our far-sighted finance director, Penny Bolton, pointed out that if we made additional payments on our mortgage, we’d be able to pay off the loan earlier than 2019, plus saving a lot on interest.   A lower mortgage – or no mortgage – down the road would give us even more money to give back to the community. A win-win! Our “Free ALI” fund-raising campaign was born!

Janet Lisle (long-time member and past president of ALI) and her husband, Phil, made a generous donation of seed money, matched by donations from our members, to start off the “Free ALI” campaign. And with hard work from all our members, plus the continued support of OUR THRIFT SHOP CUSTOMERS, we chipped away at that mortgage balance. Then last summer, we received an amazing, if bittersweet, bequest from the estate of another long-time member, Hedy Mulhausen. Hedy’s gift enabled us to pay off the rest of the mortgage in full in September, 2013 – just four years after we took out the loan!

We didn’t ACTUALLY burn the mortgage last week, because that would have set off the fire alarm and the sprinklers – but we burned it in spirit! Many who have shared this journey with us, were there to help us celebrate this momentous occasion – Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, City Council Member Beth Krom, City Manager Sean Joyce, and Jerome Carrasco, Greg Smith, Fawn Tanriverdi, and Margie Wakeham from our Community Advisory Council.

So if you notice extra-wide smiles on the faces of the ALI members the next time you’re at the shop or one of our events, it’s because the mortgage is gone – and we’re SMILING all the way to the bank!

Many memories have been made at our shop – check out some pictures over the years:

 

 

 

Support Your Local Tax-Free Zone!

no sales taxYou’ve all heard of Duty-Free Shops.  Those shops at the airport, with security guards at the entrance and enticing displays of designer handbags, perfumes, and high-end liquor  in their windows.  You watch enviously as the lucky passengers with international tickets are shown into this magical place, where shoppers pay no sales tax or VAT because they’re about to leave the country. 

But you no longer need to gaze wistfully at the Duty-Free Shop and think about how wonderful it would be not to pay sales tax.  You can shop right here in Irvine – and not pay any sales tax! No saving for months to afford the plane ticket to Europe.  No two-hour drive to LAX during the morning rush hour so you can make it through airport security in time to board your afternoon flight.  No searching frantically for a spot in the long-term parking structure.  All this is behind you! Tax-free shopping awaits you!

At the ALI thrift shop, customers don’t pay sales tax.  That’s because we are a non-profit organization.  We’re able to obtain an exemption from sales tax by providing work training to a group of clients of Goodwill Industries.   These wonderful people work with us every week to help prepare our clothing donations to go out on the racks in the store. This improves their work skills and self-esteem, and we’re able to save our customers the sales tax.  It’s a win-win for everyone – and makes our thrift shop even more of a bargain for our customers!  

No Cuts Here!

It seems lately that whenever we turn on the news, we hear about aid to needy families being reduced.  Congress cuts the food stamp program; extended unemployment benefits are expiring; food pantries have to spread the same amount of food donations among an ever-increasing number of people.   But the help that ALI gives families is one area that’s NOT being cut.  In fact, the total amount we give needy families is going UP, not down.

Operation School Bell is ALI’s largest philanthropic program.  Through OSB, we give school clothing and school supplies to students in need, in the Irvine school district.  Each child receives a backpack, a set of notebooks and pencils, and a sum of money to purchase school clothing and shoes at Target in the Irvine Marketplace, our partner shopping store.

In 2012-13, we clothed 761 OSB kids.  We’re currently in the final stages of our 2013-14 program, and we’ve clothed 816 kids to date, That’s an increase of 55 students – or 7% – and these aren’t the final numbers.  And we’ve been able to do this WITHOUT  lowering the amount of money we allocate for each child.

This is largely due to our generous thrift store shoppers!  We are a completely volunteer organization with no paid staff, and ALL the money we raise from the thrift store goes to support OSB and our other programs in Irvine.

The fact that more families need to reach out to us for help in these tough times, is not a statistic to be proud of.  But we ARE proud of the fact that we’re able – thanks to our generous thrift store shoppers – to meet this growing demand.