Longmeadow Senior Volunteers- Part I
"The Maple Tree Gift Shoppe"

The Maple Tree Gift Shoppe is located at the Longmeadow Senior Center on Maple Road. Under the directorship of Karen Michelman, the Center is an interesting and dynamic resource center for not only the town's seniors, but the general populus as well. As I chatted with Karen and Director of Volunteers Candy Stillerman, I could sense the vibrant energy which the place possesses. Over sixty in age, these volunteers may be seniors, but elderly they are not! Light on their feet and in congenial spirits, it was plain to see they enjoyed their work. "Ah bay gesundt" exclaimed one woman as she was leaving. She explained that it was a Yiddish phrase which meant something like "keep your health", or "health is everything". Then with a quick smile and sparkling eyes, she darted spryly from the room like a teenager….except with more energy.

I was accompanied to the Gift Shoppe by Ann Branchini. Soft-spoken with a warm smile, Ann has been an office volunteer at the Center for over 14 years. The gift shop is a large single-room affair which is well-stocked with a wide variety of clothing, small appliances, gift items, greeting cards, and much more. I noticed the chocolate bars, but hastened to another area! The volunteer staffing the shop this day was Mary McCarthy. Smartly attired and stylishly coiffed, Mary has been a volunteer at the center for 18 years and loves every minute of it. Ann and Mary are two of approximately 220 senior volunteers working in the center's varied programs.o 

The ladies took me around the shop and were very proud to demonstrate the quality of the items people are donating. Indeed, everything looked brand new. The clothes were clean, pressed and unfaded. The coffee pots and toasters gleamed, and the ceramic items were in perfect shape. Both directors and volunteers were quick to acknowledge the debt the Center owes to the generosity of the community at large for making their shop the success it has grown to be. The past year has been an especially good one in terms of both donations as well as sales. Just as many people of means are proud to say their pooch is a "pound dog", it has become quite fashionable to sport a suit or jacket from the Maple Tree Gift Shop. It speaks to character and commitment.. 

There is an entire section of Afghans and knitted items that are brand new. Mary and Ann tell me they are all hand-knitted on the premises by a group of ladies who call themselves the "Busy Bees". They gather on a regular basis and knit these fine hand-fashioned items solely for sale through the Maple Tree Gift Shoppe. I would bet my eye teeth the "Bees" can talk and knit at the same time!

Catering to the toney literary set, the MTGS has a free lending library of soft-cover books. Because of space constraints, they do not accept donations of hard cover books or encyclopedias.

If you're looking for a beat up old vacuum cleaner or tape deck to tinker with, this is not the place to look. You won't find any rusty old hand tools or lawn mower parts here, either. It truly is a "gift shop", not a flea market. A real class act! All items donated should be clean and in usable condition…."ship-shape and in Bristol fashion", as the saying goes. Indeed, everything I saw could easily be classified "as new". As Karen told me, they don't want "chachkah"…. a Yiddish term which means, well, "junque". Items can be dropped off any day. There is no restrictive schedule. If you get there early, you can leave them by the door. Remember, however, these are seniors that have to tote them inside. Fortunately, there is "Charlie". He is one of the hardy men-folk who habituate the Center. Cheerfully running errands, taking people to doctor's appointments, and delivering the Center's meals-on-wheels to shut-ins, Charlie is conversant in six languages!

This being spring-cleaning time, the Maple Tree Gift Shoppe is a great place to bring all those items you have too many of already. It is easily accessible with a nicely paved and spacious parking lot. No lines of cars or traffic snafus. Stay as long as you wish, have lunch for just two bucks, and be assured that whatever you donate will be going to a wonderful cause. Being a major source of much-needed revenue to the Center as a whole, the Maple Tree Gift Shoppe plays a vital role in keeping the other volunteer programs in good running order.

I will be highlighting other programs of the Longmeadow Senior Center in upcoming articles, but please visit their section on this website for complete and up-to-date information on their fine programs, events, and even excursions!


Extended visits to the Senior Center may have serious side effects including smiling & laughter, lowering of blood pressure, increased dexterity, new friends, and a general feeling of well-being!


Send any comments to webmaster@longmeadow.org