Senior Finds Joy In Service

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Eva Prychodnik was recently given the Lifetime Achievement Award for 18 years as a volunteer at the Payson Senior Center Thrift Store.

In those years, she has filled numerous positions and is now day manager and cashier on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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Eva Prychodnik has been serving the Rim Country for almost 18 years with her volunteer efforts at the Payson Senior Center Thrift Store.

She will begin her 19th year of service in April.

"I'll probably keep coming in until I can't walk anymore," she said.

And maybe longer, she has already worked while on crutches and in a walker after knee surgery.

She came to work at the Senior Center Thrift Store through an invitation by one of her predecessors.

"I was taking exercise classes and dancing next door and came in here," Prychodnik said. "The woman that was running the store then said she was getting ready to quit and suggested I become a cashier."

Prychodnik said she has always wanted to have a shop and she feels that the thrift store is a little bit like her own.

She worked in other thrift stores while living in the Phoenix area once she retired from Motorola -- she was a supervisor with the company for 27 years before her husband convinced her to retire.

Despite retiring, she refuses to slow down. When she was presented with the award earlier this year, she had just had major surgery and could hardly walk.

"But there was no way I was going to miss that," she said.

The Prychodniks spent time in the Payson area for years before moving here full time.

"We had a cabin in the mountains and he retired first and was spending most of his time up here," she said. "He kept after me to retire and finally I told him I would retire if he moved into Payson."

Prychodnik said she retired in 1959 and she and her husband have lived in Payson for 20 years.

Her husband was also a volunteer at thrift store, working there for about 16 years.

Prychodnik has served as both a co-manager and manager of the thrift store and now she and two other women act as day managers, all on a volunteer basis.

"There are so many things I like about the thrift store. The people -- those I work with and the customers -- are so nice."

She feels the thrift store has good quality merchandise, too, all at very reasonable prices.

"I get most of my own things here," she said. "Otherwise, I'd have to go to the Valley."

With so many years in the thrift store under her belt, Prychodnik has seen quite a few changes. She said the biggest had to be when the Senior Center gave the paid manager money to remodel the store.

Prychodnik said she wasn't sure it was the right thing to do, since the purpose of the thrift store is to raise money for the center. But that was the decision and it turned out to be a good one. The store's boutique area, where the best goods are displayed, is separated from the other clothing. The housewares area has shelves along every wall.

Another change Prychodnik has seen is more people donating and more people shopping in the store as the town has grown. And the people shopping regularly at the thrift store bring gifts to the staff.

"One woman was given $20," she said. "The biggest gift I received was a turkey. I gave it to the Center to make, because my husband doesn't like turkey."

Over the years, she has also seen some fairly unusual things donated to the thrift store. Most recently, they had a couple of automated Christmas decorations given to the store: A Santa that sang and did the hula and a singing and dancing deer.

"The man who bought the Santa couldn't get it off the counter because so many people wanted to see it dance," Prychodnik said. "It's fun. It's a fun place to come into.

"In fact, I could probably talk all day about how great this place is."

The Senior Center Thrift Store is located at 512 W. Main St. in Payson. Call (928) 474-3205 for more information.

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