• There But for Grace

    by Jane Roland

    Managing a benefit shop was never on my bucket list of things to do.  Perhaps it was my DNA without any awareness.   Mother had been a volunteer for as long as I can remember.  Her last tasks were helping at MPVS and assisting on the board of the Lyceum. In New York she was a grey lady at Bellevue in the children’s ward.  When the war broke out after our move to Tucson, she was with AWVS (American Women Volunteer Services) where she dragged me along with her driver, a tough retired Army Sargeant, to pick up scrap metal.  She loved jumble sales and bargain basements and was drawn to volunteer at the store in Seaside.  I had worked in advertising, written for local newspapers (in Florida), been the Executive Director of the Lyceum and was heavily involved in the arts and the SPCA.   In Miami our little high church Episcopalian community always had a rummage sale, I suggested a store take its place, it did and we made ten times the amount we had in the once a year affair.  When I moved back to the Monterey Peninsula, I was always involved in rummage sales for non-profits and our churches.  I found that these activities created a community where people who did not know one another became friends.  When Lucy Reno, an SPCA board member who served with me on the board of the Auxiliary, suggested I become the first paid manager of their benefit shop in Pacific Grove, I had reservations, but I took it on and twenty seven years later I am still at it. For the past seven years for a different animal organization.

    One of the first people to volunteer early on was Grace Bemis, whom I had known previously.  She started shortly after we opened and when I moved so did she.  She was a feisty, game, hard working woman.   On the first day of April she would come in and announce that she was quitting.  She never tired of the joke and I never wearied of being amused.  Joe Young, another worker and one of the best people I have known, would refer to Grace as the “dumpster diver” as she would go through Good Will buckets and haul out items that she might be able to use.  Through thick and thin she would appear in her ancient car with, first, Ursula I and then Ursula II, (Russian Wolfhounds) ensconced in the back seat.  Early on she had two cats, Calvin and Hobbs, both Manx whom she adored.   When they died and then the first dog, she was devastated, but she went on and, soon, adopted another.   Grace was not young, yet she came to work on time several times a week.   Her body started giving out; she fell a couple of times, but would not let me assist. Bloodied but unbowed, she appeared, week after week, year after year.  One day she wasn’t there.  I called and she told me that she wasn’t feeling too well, but that she would be back.  She tried a couple of times, but simply couldn’t.  At that point she was approaching 90 years old.  Ursula 11 was also failing, her body eaten with cancer, but, somehow, and mostly pro-bono, Dr. Bill Cleary kept the dog alive and going, until there was nothing left to go.  Ursula died; Grace went to bed, her body and heart too broken to fight.  My friends, Phillips and Shirley Wiley, were her neighbors and did all they were able to maintain the little lady.  They visited and brought her food; however, soon Grace did not recognize them.  Last week, Shirley came in to tell me that Grace had left us to ramble in the pastures of heaven with her beloved pets. She left behind a seven year old Manx kitty named Uno who is looking for a home.  Contact AFRP if you would like to meet him

    There have been so many wonderful volunteers who have departed over the years.  I care deeply because, as odd as it might sound, they are an extension of my family, my friends, and they make going to work a pleasure.  What could be more fulfilling than being with people you love and working for a group that puts animals before anything else?   The mission of the shop is to raise funds for the maintenance of these creatures whose lives might have ended or been hell were it not for the good folk at AFRP, the staff, the volunteers at the adoption center and shop and all of the foster families who nurture the animals.  If you are afraid to help with the critters because you might take them all home, come and work with us at the Treasure Shop and raise money for their nurturing.  Following is another story about a dog in need.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 18, 2013

    Topics: Animal Tales and Other Random Thoughts

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