When you buy something at Second Hand Rose or donate items to the thrift store in the Greenwood neighborhood of North Seattle, you immediately become a part of a 88-year–old Jewish legacy, started at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains near Duarte, Calif.
In 1912, a group of 35 Jewish people founded a two-tent convalescent center to care for and help cure tuberculosis victims from all part of the United States.
In the early 19th century, as tuberculosis became a less threatening disease, this fledgling band of Jewish philanthropists helped grow a once 10-acre site into the 110-acre, 115-building hospital and a world-renowned cancer research center now known as the City of Hope. While it still sits at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the two-story, 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Center for Biomedicine and Genetics is one of the leaders in cutting-edge technologies and clinical studies in the fight against cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. There are 500 chapters nationally and 19 regional offices.
An upscale housewares and boutique retail operation that is staffed by dedicated volunteers, Second Hand Rose is one of the main fund-raising vehicles for the Seattle chapter of the City of Hope. The Seattle chapter was founded in 1951 by many long-standing Jewish families. The group’s charter, originally endorsed in 1953 by the 68 founding members, displays their names documented in artistically handwritten blue calligraphy and preserved on now yellowed parchment.
Today there are approximately 700 members in the Seattle chapter, and between 70 and 100 of them show up regularly for monthly meetings and to participate in fund-raising events. One of their newest efforts is a pick-up service for donations to the store.
According to Hans Wehl, operations manager for the Seattle chapter, although the founders are Jewish and the membership is roughly 90 percent Jewish, City of Hope treats all needy patients, Jews and non-Jews alike, all around the world. Wehl, who is looking to the Jewish community for continued and increased material and financial support, couldn’t be more enthusiastic about his work or more dedicated to its non-denominational cause.
“We get more and more people from the [Jewish] community who are donating merchandise,” said Wehl, “but there are a lot of newcomers in Seattle who give their things somewhere else. Haddassah and the Council house [thrift stores] are gone now. My motive is the bottom line. We recently got a lot of people who donated their merchandise when they moved into The Summit House, for example. When we had a van donated that we could not use, we donated it to the Chabad House and we’ve also donated other merchandise to the Chabad House. Right now I’m going to give them two computers.”
Second Hand Rose receives generous donations of merchandise such as furniture and display cases from local Jewish business owners who want to participate in the organization but as yet they do not have their own truck or a van. Instead, members and volunteers located in the Southend and all over Seattle as well as the Eastside pick up donated merchandise in their own cars. It just takes a call to the store to arrange a time.
“The commitment of the volunteers here makes all the difference,” said Norma Morris, director of development for City of Hope. “Many of the volunteers who are aged 70 and up say they need this place like they need oxygen. Even volunteers with physical challenges say they look forward to coming to work here and that it gives them hope.”
According to Morris, the store currently generates about $70,000 each year, which is about 10 percent of its total operating budget.
The National Charities Information Bureau ranked the City of Hope one of the top five health charities in the country, and the Council of Better Business Bureau’s Philanthropic Advisory Service included the City of Hope in its list of charities that meet all of their standards for charitable solicitations. Consumer’s Digest lists City of Hope as number 12 on their list of the top 100 charities.
“When we raise money here it goes directly to the City of Hope,” said Morris. “Eighty-eight cents of every dollar we raise goes to research. That’s in the top percentage of [ranked] charities.”
The Seattle chapter hosts three major fund-raising events each year. The Workout For Hope is a one-day, two-hour event that takes place in June; the Walk For Hope in October is located at Marimoor Park in Redmond; and a Harvest Celebration Ball is held in October for industry leaders and contributors. Local volunteers also plan and run smaller fund-raising efforts, which include selling handmade items, a boutique sale and a 50/50 raffle drawing at monthly meetings.