‘Display matters’ at local thrift stores
RP’s Hale takes leading role in sprucing up the image of local thrift stores with her work at Goodwill
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By Jud Snyder  January 25, 2013 12:00 am

We’re still clinging to a slowly improving economic recession, and the latest ironic “joke” is from a jobless man: “The toughest part of all is trying to find a parking place close to a thrift store.”

It’s not far from the truth. Many department stores would love to have the foot traffic thrift stores attract these days.

To get a local angle, we contacted Gail Hale, Rancho Cotate High School grad (Class of 1980), who bears the title of third assistant manager for the Goodwill Industries outlet on Commerce Boulevard next to Auto Zone. Gail Hale is her maiden name and also her married name, for her first husband was David Hale. But that’s a best-forgotten story.

Upgrading the image
Goodwill Industries has the most thrift stores in Sonoma County, and it’s run like a typical bureaucracy with Mark Ihde, former Sonoma County Sheriff, as executive director and several layers of business-like boards, advisory managers and staff directors in between.

Like Salvation Army, Sutter-VNA Hospice and St. Vincent DePaul, thrift stores have for months, maybe several years or more, been engaged in a campaign to upgrade their former image cluttered with dusty displays, sloppily-hung clothes and general untidiness as if appearance didn’t matter to their customers.

 “Well, we’re doing them a favor, ” could have been their attitude. It no longer applies.

In conversation, Gail Hale obviously is infused with a driving need to continue to improve the old-fashioned image of thrift stores. “My motto is ‘Display Matters!’ All the laundered clothes on display have to be neatly hung and well-tagged according to sizes and all the shelves at eye level have to be materially arranged close together as possible and not just in a mixed-up jumble.

“If you’re looking for a crystal vase for flowers, for example, all our glassware is on one shelf, so are shoes and boots and seasonal stuff like holiday trimmings,” she added.

Keeps track of volunteers
“Yes, we’re all trying to make it seem closer to a department store, where what you’re looking for is easy to find and not just a mixture of things tossed carelessly together.”

There’s also the task of putting clothes back where they belong. “Not all our customers who change their minds put things back where they found ‘em.”

Another part of her job (she started at RP Goodwill June 1 last year), is keeping track of volunteers. Goodwill works with a lot of volunteers.

A good portion of them are assigned to accumulate community service hours as part of their court-ordered sentences for minor offenses.

Hale has to keep track of their hours and file time reports Goodwill sends to the county court system.

Almost all prep schools like Rancho Cotate have community service hours as a requirement for graduation, and thrift stores in their hometown are logical sources to fulfill this duty.

Spent last 10 years in Colorado

Gail returned to Rohnert Park early last year after spending 10 years in Colorado Springs. Her first marriage broke up, and she supported herself and two daughters by working several jobs from 9-1-1 dispatcher to certified nursing assistant. Both daughters, Angela, now 25, and Danielle, 22, have their own careers.

Danielle lives in Georgia with her husband and their son, making Hale, now 51, a grandmother.

Her first husband lives in Nevada. A second marriage didn’t last three years but left Gail with an infant daughter, Deanna, now 13, who returned to Rohnert Park with her mother.

Both are caring for Hale’s aging parents living in Santa Rosa.

She lived with her parents while at The Ranch in a G Section home before her first marriage. She had many friends at school and has since reconnected with quite a few of them.

“You know what it seems like? It seems like I’ve never been in Colorado for 10 years but more like I just left yesterday. Honestly, I’m so glad to be back home.”

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