Unique Gift Store Gives To Community

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Sweet Charity is the new wind beneath the wings of the Christmas Angel program in the Pine and Strawberry area.

The Christmas Angel project has provided assistance to needy families in the Rim country for about five years.

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Gloria Wedlake straightens some of the unique treasures she has found for the Sweet Charity gift shop in Pine. The unusual stock is not what makes the store different -- the proceeds from sales at Sweet Charity are used to benefit Pine-Strawberry area residents in need.

Sweet Charity debuted as a Christmas shop for the holidays in 2004 and then re-opened Memorial Day weekend. Currently the shop is open weekends, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Gloria Wedlake, owner of the linen store, Valeriann of Scottsdale, does the buying for the shop. She said the plan is to stock seasonal items as well, but probably not in time for Fourth of July this year.

"The shop will evolve," she said. "We will have our own nonprofit status by the end of the summer, but right now it is through the Christmas Angels."

The money for the assistance program has primarily come from an annual holiday auction. But when inclement weather hampered the fund-raising effort last year, the people behind the program decided a different approach was needed.

Now it has an auxiliary operation helping it -- the Sweet Charity boutique, located next to ERA Young Realty & Investment and Myra's Gallery on Highway 87 in Pine.

The boutique's inventory includes unique foods and cookbooks, lawn and garden ornaments, fabrics, decorating items and more. Gift baskets can be ordered, as well as fabric wraps for such things as a housewarming or going-away gift, and in the near future there will be fabric crafts created in the shop and added to the stock. Prices vary and start around $5.

Volunteers staff the store and there is always a need for more.

"It's a great cause and we hope lots of part-time residents will come out and volunteer and give back to the community," said Wedlake, a part-time resident herself, spending part of the last 12 years in the Pine-Strawberry area.

The Christmas Angel program has paid for the car repairs for a single mother who was working two jobs; bought clothes, shoes and coats for children at the Pine-Strawberry Elementary School and helped with special fees; purchased gift cards from various Payson businesses to give to families for Christmas; and replaced an elderly couple's wood-burning heater for a gas stove while covering their heating fuel for a year.

The group also donated a laptop computer to a youngster stricken with cancer, and in recent years has assisted grandmothers raising their grandchildren, according to one of the coordinators.

A network of resources helps the program determine who and how it can help. The Pine-Strawberry Food Bank and the school are two of the resources that provide names of individuals and families needing help.

For more information or to volunteer on weekends, call (928) 476-3433. Suggestions for inventory are also welcome.

A grand opening is planned for the weekend of the Fourth of July, July 1-3.

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