Longtime Harvey’s Treasure Chest volunteers (l to r) Julie Melly, Jan Kenneally, and Isabel Rush in the shop. Photo by Laurie O'Neill

Bargains — and loyal volunteers — abound at Council on Aging gift shop

April 10, 2024

By Laurie O’Neill — Correspondent  

Sterling silver earrings for $5. A decorative platter for your next luncheon or those cookies you’re taking to a friend? Three dollars, as is a pretty cachepot for your newest houseplant.   

You’ll find bargains aplenty at Harvey’s Treasure Chest Gift Shop inside the Harvey Wheeler Community Center, home of the Council on Aging. You’ll also meet some of the shop’s enthusiastic volunteers: 14 women who work in teams to sort, price, and sell donated items.   

“We’re dedicated to creating a place for Concord seniors to purchase items at value prices,” said Vikki Jacobson, the COA’s volunteer and public relations coordinator.   

“We price very few things over $15,” said Julie Melly, a shop volunteer who’s lived in Concord for 62 years.  

True to the shop’s name, some objects, such as Dedham Rabbit pottery, are collectible treasures.    

Melly has a B.A. in art from Smith College, was a lecturer at the Museum of Fine Arts, and did library work. Fellow volunteer Jan Kenneally pointed out that Melly played a role in conceiving the Minuteman Library Network. 

Kenneally, who’s spent 54 years in Concord, has been friends with Melly ever since their sons became pals as children. Kenneally has a degree in education from UMass Amherst, was assistant manager of AAA’s Boston office, and sold textbooks for an educational publishing company, D.C. Heath in Lexington, and served as its human resources manager.

The women once worked together in the Concord Museum shop.  

A nonagenarian touch 

A sterling silver pendant. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

Longtime volunteer Isabel Rush oversees the pricing of all items other than jewelry.  

“We bounce numbers off each other until we come to a decision,” she said.  

Rush, who has a college degree, worked for H&R Block, and was active in the West Concord Women’s Club for many years, is “retail savvy,” said Jacobson.  

“She has her fingers on the pulse of everything in the shop.”  

Rush takes her job seriously, as do the other volunteers.  

“Presentation is everything,” she said. “A piece of crystal can sit on a shelf for weeks, but if you group several pieces on a table in the hallway outside the shop, customers descend on them.”  

The three women, all 90 or over, said they delight in spending time with customers. It makes them feel more connected to the community and less isolated.  

“There’s a lot of camaraderie here, which is vital at this time of life,” said Jacobson. When the facility closed for one and a half years during the pandemic, “It was really hard on our seniors.”  

An ivy-decorated cachepot for a houseplant. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

The Treasure Chest sold only clothing and was in a Concord school basement. It moved to the Harvey Wheeler Community Center after the facility was renovated and has operated there for 21 years in a tiny but bright and tidy space off the lobby.   

Displays are changed regularly with stock from storage. There are themed sales, and half-price clearances occur in January and June.  

Recently, a “Last Hurrah” table in the hall featured glass goblets for $1, blue and white table linens, and three Italian porcelain clowns at $5 each, waiting for someone to take them home. 

The thrill of the (bargain) hunt   

The volunteers said it’s gratifying when a customer finds something special. One woman who bought a piece of crystal for $2 said she was elated — she had never been able to afford such an item brand new.  

“That gave us such joy,” said Kenneally.    

A serving platter waiting to attend a party. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

An online shop shows browsers what is currently in stock, and they can call the Treasure Chest to reserve, pick up, and pay for the piece. (Cash or check payments only.)   

The shop depends on donations of new or gently used crystal and glassware, ceramics, unique pieces of china (not full sets), pottery, cachepots, vases, candlesticks, mugs, and novelty items. Scarves and handbags are accepted, and full skeins of yarn have proven popular.  

It does not accept clothing, electronics, toys, large lamps, or sets of dishes and will take only small electrical items.   

No item valued at more than $250 can be accepted. Volunteers determine price points after consulting resources like eBay. Unsold stock is ultimately donated to local and national non-profits, including Household Goods in Acton.   

All proceeds support COA’s many programs and activities, such as its annual Spring Tea Party for Concord seniors (60 and over), which features live harp music, teas, and tea sandwiches. The shop gets into the act by displaying a variety of teacups for sale.    

Harvey’s Treasure Chest at the COA at 1276 Main Street in West Concord is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Donations can be made during the Center’s hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. Volunteers write notes of thanks to donors who provide a name.  

“We are so appreciative,” Melly said.   

For more information on COA programs, visit concordma.gov/916/Council-on-AgingSenior-Services. To make a reservation for the April 18 tea party, call (978) 318-3020.