Robin Hood Shop celebrates 60th anniversary with groundbreaking

CAMBRIDGE — People passing by the Robin Hood Shop on Tuesday afternoon in Cambridge may have seen and heard a group of revelers singing happy birthday. Many members of the chorus were ladies wearing pink jackets.

On Tuesday, the thrift store run mostly by volunteers from the Dorchester General Hospital Auxiliary, was packed with guests and shoppers who were there to celebrate the store’s 60th anniversary.

The group stepped outside to commemorate the anniversary and to break ground on a showroom that will be used to sell home furnishings. Cathy Gullion, store manager, said she often has to turn away furniture donations because there currently isn’t enough room.
Opened in 1957 in a former grocery store, the Robin Hood Shop supports the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester, previously known as Dorchester General Hospital. Debbie Thomas has worked as a manager, and has volunteered at the store and for the auxiliary, in a number of positions since 1982. She is the shop’s house historian.

“There were about six women that entered the auxiliary that formed this thrift shop,” in 1957, Ms. Thomas said. “They rented the building and I believe it was 1968, the auxiliary purchased this. We’ve added on a couple of times. During the early days, donations were so hard to get. We were not a throw-away society in the ‘50s like we are today.”

Ms. Thomas said when the shop first opened, auxiliary volunteers placed barrels at fire stations and other places in the community. Patrons held trunk parties in their homes and tried to fill the trunks with donations. Despite early struggles, these days customers often find what they’re looking for at the Robin Hood Shop, and at a good price.

According to Ms. Gullion, a woman recently saw a wedding gown displayed in the store window. She decided to try it on. Ms. Gullion said the gown looked like it was made just for her. The customer bought the dress, originally worth $2,500, for $50, and a volunteer asked if her soon-to-be husband needed a tuxedo. The answer was yes. The volunteer took the customer’s phone number, and said she would call if a tuxedo came in. Sure enough, the next day a tuxedo was donated, and it fit the groom perfectly.

“There’s something about this building, it’s almost magical,” Ms. Gullion said. “I love working here. It gets crazy. It really does get crazy, but it’s a fun crazy.”

Ms. Gullion said she works with a group of about 16 volunteers. Some of the volunteers work regular hours at the store, and she refers to others as “drop ins” who come by to help every now and then. The Robin Hood Shop also has a number of dedicated, longtime customers, including Thelma Young, who keep coming back for the magic.

Dorchester Banner/Bob Zimberoff
Debbie Thomas, left, and Thelma Young enjoy the festivities Tuesday during the 60th birthday party and groundbreaking at the Robin Hood Shop on High Street in Cambridge. Ms. Young, 80, has shopped regularly at the thrift store since it opened in 1957. Ms. Thomas has worked and volunteered at the shop since 1982.

“Thelma has been coming here ever since I first opened the door,” Ms. Thomas said.

While Ms. Thomas got her start as a manager at the Robin Hood Shop in 1982, Ms. Young, 80, has visited the store regularly since it first opened in 1957.

“I’ve been coming since day one,” Ms. Young said Tuesday. “I used to live right across the street. … Sometimes I come in in the morning and come back in the afternoon.”

The store’s faithful patrons have allowed the auxiliary to make considerable donations to the hospital in Cambridge through the years. According to Diane McCarthy, auxiliary president, the shop donated equipment or funds worth more than $27,000 in 2015 and $44,000 in 2016. The auxiliary also offers scholarships to Dorchester high school students who plan to become nurses. In 2016, eight $1,000 scholarships were given to students entering Chesapeake College’s nursing program.

Dorchester Banner/Bob Zimberoff
Shelly Hurley, right, of Brookview Hope Treasures, presents a check to Diane McCarthy, president of the Dorchester General Hospital Auxiliary. The donation will support the auxiliary’s fund which provides $1,000 scholarships to Dorchester County high school students who will study nursing in college.

“The auxiliary takes great pride in our accomplishments to support the activities at the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester,” Ms. McCarthy said while listing some of the auxiliary’s recent donations. “This was accomplished by our very dedicated volunteers, and the amazing expertise of the Robin Hood Shop manager.”

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