Members of the Peninsula Orthopedic Guild gathered Wednesday to watch the demolition of their thrift shop on Kimball Drive.
It was a celebratory occasion – the shop was badly damaged in a fire on July 3, and the demolition marks the beginning of new chapter in the store’s long history.
The guild was founded in 1948 and is one of 38 that raises money for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma. Every guild has a fundraising project, but Peninsula Orthopedic is the only one that operates year-round. It runs the all-volunteer thrift shop to raise money for the hospital. The guild’s 30 members each volunteer about 30 hours a month.
At least they did until July, when the fire destroyed their building, which had been donated in the mid-1970s and moved from Harborview Drive to donated land on Kimball.
Guild president Bev Reinvik can tell you exactly how much money her team has raised for the hospital as of last year – “$1,777,149” – although the fire significantly cut down on fundraising efforts in 2012.
“This fire really threw us for a loop,” Reinvik said as she stood with a small group of other volunteers to watch a construction crew begin to clear debris from the remains of the thrift shop.
Burnt clothes and dishes were among the damage visible as an excavator tore down the building’s remaining walls.
“Look how easily he’s tearing it down!” Reinvik remarked as the construction crew worked.
She said the thrift shop had been a very rudimentary building, with thin walls and no heating or water system.
The cause of the fire is still undetermined. Reinvik said despite it happening the night before the Fourth of July, there’s no evidence of outside influence. The electrical outlet inside also was found undamaged.
The loss of the shop meant more than just the loss of fundraising to some of the volunteers, although their work for the hospital has taken a hit.
“Some of our grandchildren will really miss this place a lot,” volunteer Marge Bitter said. “They used to love to come down here and rummage through all the toys.”
Other volunteers, many of whom are retired, also described their time at the shop as a central part of their lives that has been missing during the past several months.
Reinvik and the guild approached Gig Harbor Morning Rotary Club after the fire, looking for assistance with the rebuilding effort.
“We’re good at selling things, but we have no idea how to navigate the systems to start rebuilding,” Reinvik said.
The Rotary agreed to take the lead on the project and hired local architect David Freeman to help design a new building.
“Without the Rotary helping us, I don’t know what we would have done,” Reinvik said. “We’re just so thankful to the whole community.
“It’s just such a big part of our lives,” she added.