Elaine Siegel, a York County real estate agent, goes by the name “Chief Elf” this time of year.
For the fifth year, Siegel and about 40 volunteers have opened the York County Humane Society Holiday Shop. It will be open through Dec. 27.
The holiday merchandise is donated, as is the volunteer’s time.
The space in a strip shopping mall at 2400 S.C. 160 W., Fort Mill. (Exit 85 if traveling south on Interstate 77) is donated. The group pays the power bill. That’s it.
“This is a year-round project,” Siegel said. “We start the day after Christmas, taking more and more donations for the upcoming year and storing them away.”
As for the donated 2,000-square-foot space, “I call around until I find someone who will open his or her hearts and let us use it,” she said.
The huge variety of Santa and angel figurines, Christmas tree donations, candleholders, silk poinsettias, ornaments, lights, wreaths and other other decorative items at low prices leads to success each year.
Last year, the group turned over $23,000 to the York County Humane Society. The goal this year? $25,000.
“We have ornaments that sell for 25 cents to $1, and I think I have a Santa that sits on the ground priced at $75,” she said.
Custom wreaths, including NFL or college football themed, sell for $35-$65. One of the volunteers just finished making an elaborate Carolina Panthers wreath for a customer.
Siegel, 65, also paints custom NFL or college football themed Nutcracker figurines. She said holiday college items, especially University of South Carolina or Clemson University, are big sellers.
The volunteers are clever and thrifty.
With lit trees that are donated but the bottom lights are out, the group does what they call “Pop the Top.”
“We throw away the bottom part that’s not useable and just sell the top,” she said. “We sell a lot of those for children’s rooms or front porches. We sell a lot of artificial Christmas trees.”
Look for stockings, hostess gifts, gift bags and wrap, tacky Christmas sweaters for parties, holiday mugs and dishes, holiday baby clothing, porcelain dolls and a large collection of Santa figurines.
“We’re still taking donations,” said Siegel, who lives in nearby Tega Cay. “I make necklaces and bracelets, ornaments, nutcrackers, and our wreaths are custom made. Our volunteers are very good and very fast. We have one who makes more traditional wreaths, often reworked from other wreaths that are donated, and include birds and angels. Another makes more modern wreaths, so we have a very good selection.”
The holiday shop is a spinoff of the main York County Humane Society Thrift Shop, Pawsibilities, which opened in 2008 with Siegel and a host of volunteers. The 3,000-square-foot shop is at 2144 Carolina Place.
“We started in this little hole in the wall that a veterinarian gave us and six months later it was so successful we moved,” Siegel said. “We doubled our size in 2012. A lot of people call it ‘The Gift Shop’ instead of a thrift shop. It’s very nice.”
Siegel, originally from Ohio, goes an extra step for the local humane society. Volunteers join her and her husband after Thanksgiving to annually concoct a Christmas lights show at her home. The display, at 7045 Chelsea Day Lane also has a donation box for the York County Humane Society.
The lights are displayed nightly starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
“We put up a huge Christmas layout at my house that is very sports-themed,” she said. “We have a tennis court with a snowman, and penguin with the ball going back and forth, and a penguin watching. There is a bear riding a bike, and two penguins in kayaks coming down the roof of our house in a waterfall. We also feature a 16-foot Christmas tree.”