As thrift stores go, the Assistance League boutique on 2090 E 3300 S has class. Items range from designer wedding dresses to signed artwork. Then there are the clerks—ladies whose sole purpose is to help customers. Classy stuff and classy clerks supporting a class act—the Assistance League of Salt Lake City.
Most people only know about the store. But its proceeds support an array of projects benefiting the local community. “Volunteer power and awesome donors, that’s how we do it,” says Valerie Mercer, who has been with the League for 30 years. The 200 active members of the local chapter are all volunteers. This allows the League to return 86 percent of its earnings to fund local endeavors.
Members are asked to donate four hours per month to League projects. In addition to the store, they include providing new coats and clothing to deserving school children, paying nearly $100,000 per year for child dental care, giving 600 “baby bundles” to moms at local hospitals, supplying about 15,000 books per year to kids from pre-K to junior high, offering assault survivor kits to women who have been attacked, and sponsoring the Act III musical troupe that entertains at senior centers and nursing homes.
“We try to serve needs not served by others,” Valerie says. The League has been doing this for the past 113 years. The impetus came from a group of women led by Anne Banning, who sought to help survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Now there are 120 chapters around the country, and Valerie describes it as a sisterhood. She became involved when a friend invited her to a meeting. “I thought it a great way to meet other women who had an interest in more than just playing cards, but being of service to others. “But,” she noted with a smile, “I still play cards.”
The League is expanding its scope by providing computers to high school grads who need them, and helping handicapped foster children. Men are also getting involved, and there is a group or young people called “Assisteens.” League members obviously are not in it for the money, but they do become wealthy. “I get so much out of this work. I am so humble and proud that I can do it,” Valerie says.
While the Thrift Store is presently closed due to COVID-19 they will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.