RANCHO SANTA FE — The Country Friends don’t turn pumpkins into fancy coaches or wave a wand to create glass slippers, but they are the closest thing to fairy godmothers outside a fairy tale.
What they can do is provide help for abused women and children, aid for the elderly, food for the hungry, care for sick children and so much more.
This Rancho Santa Fe-based group spends a great deal of time raising money through its boutique that sells gently used and unique items and community events to aid the 31 agencies they support, all within San Diego County.
Marci Cavanaugh, who took over as president of the group in January, said The Country Friends was founded in the early 1950s by a lady who owned the property. When she passed, she donated the two buildings in which they are based. One of the buildings used to be part of The Country Friends, but now it has been remodeled and there are four suites they rent out.
“The Over Yonder Shop was not making money,” she said. “It was mostly knickknacks. Now we make more money to pay our overhead.”
Because the suites are so profitable, it allows the Friends to give 40 percent of what they earn to agencies they support.
“Now we don’t have to take money from anywhere else,” she said. “In the past, it was all run by volunteers. Now we have an administration person that we pay. Jean Newman, who has volunteered over 30 years, finally gets a small stipend,” Cavanaugh said.
Newman, the heart of the Friends, is a valuable asset.
“Jean has a very good eye and knows the market, what will sell here,” she said. “Everything in the shop has to be 100 percent in good shape. No repairs.”
Beginning with 167 members, the group has grown to about 750. Over the years, the Friends have been able to give about $12 million to worthy causes.
The shop is the largest generator of funds for the Friends.
Cavanaugh said it is interesting that many people don’t realize that at the shop there are a variety of items including beautiful sofas, dining tables, original art, sterling silver, china, crystal, clocks, buffets, rugs, dishes and unique display items.
“We have some very unusual pieces. Right now we have a big armoire that is ornate and inlayed. It is absolutely gorgeous,” she said. “I think we need to get the word out there again.”
On a recent morning, volunteer Marti Gibson, who has volunteered there for 21 years, was finishing up paperwork at the boutique.
“It’s a fun place to be. It’s the best volunteer job I’ve ever had,” she said.
Suzanne Newman, manager of business administration, of the shop agrees.
“It supports great organizations and it’s a wonderful place. The people I work with are amazing,” Newman said.
The biggest fundraiser of the year for the Friends is the annual Art of Fashion, fashion show which is held outside on the law of The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
This year it will be on Sept. 22 in conjunction with South Coast Plaza.
Last year, the event cleared $100,000, she said.
In addition, they host a holiday tea in December and on April 12 there will be the Spring Fling Fashion Show.
At each meeting of the board, one of the agencies helped by the Friends will come and give a presentation. And to make sure the money given is being used the way it was intended to be used, board members also tour the agencies.
With all the interaction between the agencies and the Friends, agencies offer one to six people to help out with the all fashion show.
This year the Friends are funding 25 agencies.
The Country Friends consignment shop is on the corner of El Tordo and Avenida de Acacia. The shop is open to the public six days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Merchandise is received from estates and individuals and is either donated or consigned.
To learn more about The Country Friends, call (858) 756-1192.
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