LAURINBURG — Helping Hand thrift shop manager Julian Butler got a festive send-off on Wednesday after 15 years with the store.
“For those of you that do not know, I am hanging up my shingle on the roof at the end of this calendar year,” Butler said. “15 years is a long time to be the so-called store manager.”
The thrift shop is the primary fund generating mechanism for Scotland County’s Concerned Citizens for the Homeless, both raising money and providing options for those people who are unable to afford clothes or household items at retail prices. There are about 100 volunteers that run the shop, which made $160,000 in sales this year.
“Clara and I began as volunteers about 21 years ago,” Butler said, referring to his wife who works the front of the store.
The store was originally opened by Kathy Lytch in 1998. Butler took over as the warehouse and store manager in 2000 after he retired from his job of 39 years as special education administrator for Scotland County Schools.
During his time with Helping Hand, Butler would organize, sort and sometimes wash the clothes that would be sold. He also cooked for the volunteers.
“I’ve learned a long time ago, if you let them have a good time and fill up their belly, they’ll work all day,” he said.
Debbie Locklear will take over Butler’s position.
“In the short time I’ve known him, he’s a leader with great wisdom, he’s got a caring personality, a heart of gold, he has a great sense of humor and he is a great cook and has a way with chocolate,” Locklear said. “I’m very proud to have worked with you Julian, it’s just been an honor and a privilege and you genuinely care about each person that comes in that door.”
Besides his cooking, many volunteers with the organization felt Butler changed the business for the better.
“Nobody’s been more relentless in pursuing what needed to be done, nobody’s put in more countless hours than he’s put in, regardless of how he’s felt or what the temperature in the room was, he was here day in and day out,” said Greg Wood, chairman for the Concerned Citizens for the Homeless board. “For the past 15 years you made the store what it is and the store would not be what it is and all those people would have the resources to make a difference in those lives if not for you — we are extraordinarily grateful for that.”
Butler may be retiring from his official position as the manager, but he won’t stay away for too long.
“I won’t miss anything because I’m going to come back as a volunteer three mornings a week,” Butler said. “It’s been a wonderful 15 years and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.