ScholarShop to close next year

Dr. Marshall Poger shows off his “Hebes for Hillary” T-shirt, which he designed, to a virtual Hillary Clinton, Democratic nominee for president.

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Shop talk

As the Jewish New Year begins, so does a new cause: Save the ScholarShop. Currently, it is slated to close the first half of 2017.

Like many of you, I found out last week about the imminent end of this local resale institution, which will accept donations until the end of the year and stay open for the next six to 12 months. The shop was first launched in 1960 as a way to further the Scholarship Foundation’s mission of supporting interest-free loans and grants for postsecondary students with financial need. 

For a little background, the nonprofit Scholarship Foundation was begun in 1920 as a program created by National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section and then incorporated, in 1929, as the St. Louis Jewish Scholarship Foundation. In the early 1960s, it became independent and non-sectarian as the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis.

Around the same time, marketing entrepreneur and philanthropist Evelyn Newman came up with a unique idea of recycling fashion to raise more money for Scholarship Foundation. The idea jelled, and for more than a half a century, thousands of St. Louisans have been donating designer clothes and accessories to the ScholarShop, which now has two retail locations, in Richmond Heights and Webster Groves.

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But according to Faith Sandler, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation, while the number of donations has remained constant over the last few years, the quality of the clothing and accessories donated has declined. 

“This is not a case of supply and demand. It’s a case of supply,” added Sandler, noting that in 2013, the ScholarShop raised more than $1.3 million in net revenue toward the foundation’s $7 million budget; in 2015, net revenue from the shop was $725,000 and this year, it is expected to net between $475,000 and $500,000. The rest of the budget comes from repayment on the interest free loans and monetary contributions and grants.

 “The crux of the issue is that our expenses have increased significantly, mostly in the processing of donations that aren’t up to quality to put on the floor and sell,” Sandler explained. “That’s not because people don’t love us. It’s because the retail and apparel industries have changed so dramatically.”

She said shoppers aren’t donating as much high-end merchandise because they are buying less of it. So that means fewer upscale donations to sell. And resale donations originating from cheaper fashion retailers – chains like H&M and Forever 21 – don’t come close to exacting the same price as their designer counterparts.

As a longtime ScholarShop shopper, I was more than slightly unhinged at news of its closing, especially after learning that 28 of the foundation’s employees are likely to lose their jobs as a result. I also wondered whether the closing was the start of a trend.

According to Ellen Alper, the answer is “no,” at least as far as the NCJW Resale Shop is concerned. Alper is executive director of NCJW, which receives 50 percent of its $1.1 million operating budget from shop proceeds. Among the many programs it supports is its Back to School! Store, which outfits underserved children with clothes and supplies before the start of the school year. 

“I don’t want to jinx anything but our numbers are up 8.5 percent from last year to this year,” said Alper, noting that the shop’s fiscal year ends June 30. “And we were up between 4.5 and 5 percent the year before.”

Alper said she was surprised and sadden to learn of the ScholarShop closing. 

“But I understand the need to focus on the (Scholarship Foundation’s) mission,” she said. “If the shop was a drain on the mission, it makes sense to close. Because our shop is so integral to our mission, we are not at that place.”

Neither is Rung Boutique, a nonprofit resale shop for women and children in Rock Hill whose proceeds support the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis and Nurses for Newborns. Mallarie Zimmer, Rung executive director, says the store has seen steady growth since it opened in 2010, though “it’s only been by a percentage point or two” over the last couple of years.

“To us, the ScholarShop is the gold standard of upscale resale,” said Zimmer. “We look to them for everything, including how they advertise, how they support their foundation, the way they run their store. So this (closing) is initially shocking. They are our biggest role model. Who will set the tone going forward?”

That’s exactly what I wondered. So I asked Sandler if there was anything Light readers could do to save the ScholarShop. She was extremely touched but explained:  “This process has been enlightening. You know how people think of the Zoo or the Symphony as being a cultural institution of which the community is proud? I know the ScholarShop isn’t a cultural institution but in terms of community affinity and pride, well, I think the ScholarShop may have achieved that after 56 years.”

Despite a redesign of the Richmond Heights store late last year to make it more appealing to customers, she said the foundation board didn’t see any way to reverse the shop’s declining revenues. The Scholarship Foundation owns the land and building in Richmond Heights — of which roughly 10,000 square feet comprise the shop –and leases the property in Webster Groves. 

Sandler also asked me to remind you not to forget what her organization does best, which is providing scholarships to those in need. 

“On a yearly basis we award 500 to 600 scholarships,” she said. “This year, we had to turn down 77 students because we did not have sufficient funds given the downward trend at the store. 

“We hope the community will continue its great support of our mission financially rather than with clothing donations,” she continued. “As much as the closing makes me sad, I know the Scholarship Foundation will be healthier and stronger as we move ahead.”

 

Hebes for Hillary

Just in time for the next presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Sunday at Washington University comes a new T-shirt: Hebes for Hillary.

The shirt is the brainchild of Dr. Marshall Poger, a retired Webster Groves pathologist who thought up the idea while on a recent trip to Sun Valley, Idaho with his longtime partner, Marianna Riley.

“My son had sent me a shirt with the slogan, ‘Jews for Jeter,’ about two years ago,” said Poger, referring to Derek Jeter, the Yankees star shortstop. “That’s what gave me the idea of creating a similar shirt, with a Star of David as its centerpiece, showing Jewish support for Hillary.”

Poger had 25 “Hebes for Hillary” T-shirts made while he was in Sun Valley. Soon after, his son set up an account with CafePress.com, which in turn tweaked Poger’s original design to use Hebraic-looking letters and added some other products, including water bottles, lunch totes and even doggie shirts.

Poger isn’t sure how, or if, any of it is selling, nor does he really care. Making money on the project wasn’t his main motivation.

“I had some fun, adding a little political incorrectness with the word ‘Hebe,’” said Poger. “I think Hillary’s campaign could use a little political incorrectness. Trump certainly has made use of that.”

For more information, go to cafepress.com/hebesforhillary. 

 

Protecting your kids

Congregation B’nai Amoona is hosting MOCHIP, a comprehensive child identity program, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 at 324 S. Mason Road. The program, which is being sponsored by the Masonic Children’s Foundation of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Masons and Gateway Lodge 40, is deemed “one of the most comprehensive child recovery and identification programs in the nation,” by the National Council for Missing and Exploited Children.

According to statistics, nearly 2,000 children are reported missing or abducted every day in the United States. The most susceptible ages are 11 to 21.

MOCHIP consists of five components, including digital fingerprints and photographs, a dental bite impression and two laminated ID cards. 

All information and specimens are collected on site, processed and provided to a parent or legal guardian. The photographs, fingerprints and child data are burned onto a mini-CD that is compatible with the Amber Alert system.

The program is being offered free of charge and generally takes 15 minutes per child. For more information, contact Randy Davis at Gateway Lodge at 314-920-6306 or [email protected]