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Volunteer Spotlight: Lyme Bargain Barn Leader Is a ‘Pro’

  • Darlene Lehmann examines a porcelain teapot that was donated to the Lyme Bargain Barn. Lehmann, of Lyme Center, has been chairwoman of the church-sponsored thrift shop for 14 years. Each season, from June through Labor Day weekend, Lehmann said the group of 30 volunteers raises around $10,000.<br/><br/>Courtesy photograph

    Darlene Lehmann examines a porcelain teapot that was donated to the Lyme Bargain Barn. Lehmann, of Lyme Center, has been chairwoman of the church-sponsored thrift shop for 14 years. Each season, from June through Labor Day weekend, Lehmann said the group of 30 volunteers raises around $10,000.

    Courtesy photograph

  • In an undated photograph, a shopper browses the selection at the Lyme Bargain Barn, located in the historic Lyme House just off the town common. Proceeds from the sale of donated items support local social service organizations, disaster relief programs, scholarships and the First Congregational Church.<br/><br/>Courtesy photograph

    In an undated photograph, a shopper browses the selection at the Lyme Bargain Barn, located in the historic Lyme House just off the town common. Proceeds from the sale of donated items support local social service organizations, disaster relief programs, scholarships and the First Congregational Church.

    Courtesy photograph

  • Darlene Lehmann examines a porcelain teapot that was donated to the Lyme Bargain Barn. Lehmann, of Lyme Center, has been chairwoman of the church-sponsored thrift shop for 14 years. Each season, from June through Labor Day weekend, Lehmann said the group of 30 volunteers raises around $10,000.<br/><br/>Courtesy photograph
  • In an undated photograph, a shopper browses the selection at the Lyme Bargain Barn, located in the historic Lyme House just off the town common. Proceeds from the sale of donated items support local social service organizations, disaster relief programs, scholarships and the First Congregational Church.<br/><br/>Courtesy photograph

Lyme — Darlene Lehmann doesn’t think of herself as a businesswoman. She prefers the label “professional volunteer.”

But if the amount of money generated each season at the Lyme Bargain Barn thrift store, for which Lehmann has been the chairwoman for 14 years, is any indication, this a charitable organization that has mastered the art of turning a profit.

“We hope to make $10,000 a year,” Lehmann said. “And when you have a price list that ranges from 50 cents to $10, you have to have a lot of sales.”

That’s especially true when your sales season is only three months long, from June through Labor Day weekend.

What makes this feat even more remarkable is the fact that the store, in essence, is created anew at the start of each season.

When the 30 volunteers who manage the store close up shop in early September, every item of clothing is boxed and delivered to the Haven homeless shelter and Listen in White River Junction. The bric-a-brac will be donated to year-round thrift stores like the Good Buy Store, also in White River Junction.

When the Bargain Barn re-opens the following June, virtually every item for sale will have been sorted and priced from an entirely new collection of donated items.

“People are incredibly generous to us,” Lehmann said, noting that the give-and-take business model of the thrift store is one of her favorite aspects of the enterprise.

It’s a kind of charitable ecology that allows unwanted items to be recycled into thousands of dollars that annually support the parish nurse program of the First Congregational Church, scholarships, disaster relief assistance, local social service organizations, the Lyme Fire Department and senior lunches.

Housed in the historic Lyme House just off the town common, the Lyme Bargain Barn has been in business for more than 30 years and is operated by Women’s Fellowship Philanthropies, an outreach program of the Congregational Church. Lehmann, who lives in Lyme Center, is a member of the church. But most of the other volunteers are not.

At the end of every season, Lehmann said, she jokes about never returning to the Lyme Bargain Barn again. At 75, she said, she maybe would like to spend more time playing tennis. But the woman who said, “I love people. They turn me on,” can’t quite imagine her life without being a volunteer.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “That’s pretty much who I am.”

Editor’s Note: The Bargain Barn, 1 Dorchester Road, will remain open until Sept. 2. Hours of operation are 1:30-4:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. For information about volunteering at the Lyme Bargain Barn, call Darlene Lehmann at 603-795-4119. Diane Taylor can be reached at 603-727-3221 or dtaylor@vnews.com.