Freda Widup, 83, has been helping military families for about 35 years through the Fort Hood Area Thrift Shop.
“I look at the thrift shop as (a place) for military people (to come) when they need things or when they leave and they need to get rid of it,” Widup said while volunteering July 25. “That’s what the thrift shop is all about.”
Debbie Jarzynkowski, manager of the nonprofit, said the shop has been around since the 1970s and all of its profits go back into the community.
So far this year, the nonprofit has donated more than $112,600 to various organizations at Fort Hood and surrounding cities.
Widup volunteers between five and 10 hours a week and encourages residents on and off post to visit the shop.
“The more money we make, the more we can give,” she said.
The nonprofit gave away $30,000 to students through its Fort Hood scholarship fund, as well as $10,000 to the Greater Killeen Free Clinic. They also donated funds to organizations such as the American Red Cross, Child Protective Services, the USO, Big Brothers Big Sisters and project graduation events at local high schools.
“We try to help out. We like to see that the kids are in a safe place (during graduation),” she said. “Every school that puts an application in for project graduation gets $500.”
Jarzynkowski said the nonprofit has between 30 and 40 volunteers, many who have been helping out for more than 20 years.
She said she hopes to make a positive impact on the community.
“As a military spouse, it means a lot (to give back),” she said. “There’s a lot of things that you do in your lifetime that you don’t get fulfillment from. This is one of those things where you can touch somebody’s life.”
Eve Cook, of Killeen, visits the shop twice a week and has been looking for unique finds at the store for eight years.
“It’s wonderful. The setup is nice and I love my treasure hunting,” Cook said. “I make friends and we talk and shop.”
Even though Jarzynkowski’s husband, 1st Sgt. Robert Jarzynkowski, 41st Fires Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, will retire Aug. 8 after 22 years of service, she doesn’t plan to leave the nonprofit. “I’m going to be here forever. I’m not going away.”