TWIN FALLS • Like a spicy, warm cup of holiday eggnog, the store’s Christmas wonderland suited John Cavanaugh’s palate to a T — as in “thrift.”
It didn’t take long, in fact, for the Burley resident’s gaze to alight on a lavender-tinted wreath the size of a car tire hanging on the store’s wall.
“Boy, I might have to come back and buy that,” the 62-year-old said with obvious delight as he prowled the store’s aisles. “Every time I come in here, it’s really fascinating with all the different stuff they have.”
“Here,” in this case, is the Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift Store on Main Avenue South in Twin Falls.
The store, one of 28 operated by the Idaho Youth Ranch in Idaho — six in the Magic Valley — recently enlarged its Christmas merchandise section to reflect the community’s enthusiasm and offer even more Christmas goodies for the discriminating downtown shopper.
Robert Speer, area thrift store manager for the Magic Valley, said proceeds from the stores — and, of course, from the revamped Christmas room in Twin Falls — support a wide range of statewide programs for children and families. Donors typically drop off items at the store, which are then processed and placed on the sales floor for purchase. People may also donate directly to the Ranch.
The Idaho Youth Ranch, a privately operated nonprofit facility established in 1952 by Methodist minister James Crowe, operates three residential treatment homes for youth: Anchor House in Coeur d’Alene, Hays Shelter Home in Boise and The Ranch in Rupert.
According to Jim Stockberger, Idaho Youth Ranch program director, children in the program typically stay for one year at a cost of $60,000, and parents pay based on their financial ability. The organization currently serves 44 children, mostly aged 12-16. Typically, residents are struggling with abuse or neglect by family members, substance abuse (by youth and/or parents), depression, runaway/homelessness, family conflict or juvenile delinquency.
“I think there are times when parents just throw their hands in the air and say, ‘Help me,’” Speer said.
The treatment facilities are not obliged to take all youth whom parents or counselors want to admit.
“We have the ability to deny anyone here, and we are not forced to take any kid that doesn’t fit into the program,” Stockberger said.
Youth barred from entry include sexual predators, fire starters and animal abusers.
Revenue raised through the Ranch’s thrift stores supports programs that offer access to foster care, adoptions, family counseling, residential treatment homes, shelter homes, independent living and substance abuse treatment.
“The revenue from the thrift stores pays for the placement of the majority of the youth in the program,” Stockberger said. “No parent pays more than 5 percent of the cost of treatment, and 95 percent of the placement cost comes from the thrift stores.”
And, of course, the Twin Falls thrift store’s expanded Christmas room will help fill those coffers and perhaps add a new wrinkle to downtown.
Explained Speer: “We felt that downtown lacked an old-timey Christmas store. Downtown has a unique feel to it, and we thought it could benefit from something like this.”
In past holiday seasons, the store had offered about 8 feet of shelf space for Christmas merchandise. The full Christmas room, inaugurated Nov. 19, will stay up until a few days after Christmas and now has more than 2,000 square feet decorated with items for just about every yuletide devotee.
“We’re trying to encourage people to donate Christmas stuff for the room, but we also typically get a lot of Christmas items anyway,” Speer said. “The community is very excited about the holiday room, which will in turn generate a lot of revenue for kids this holiday season.”
Twin Falls resident Carol Malone was doing her best to further that cause as she strolled the Christmas room’s aisles a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m looking for Christmasy new ideas,” she said. “I especially like Christmas lights and wreaths.”
She eventually found one of the latter she couldn’t live without — a $7.35 multicolored metal wreath fashioned with jingle bells.
“I’m going to put it on the front door to make it noisy,” she said with a grin.
Not to be outdone, Glenns Ferry resident Jennifer Baker found herself a more traditional wreath, tilting it in her hands this way and that until she was satisfied it would fit her needs. Baker was impressed with the thrift store’s new Christmas digs.
Thrift shop employees “do a good job of weeding through the Christmas junk and putting out the good stuff,” she said. “And that’s good, because we’re going to have pretty much a thrift shop Christmas this year.”
That will hold true, too, for John Cavanaugh, if he returns to the store and nabs his giant wreath.
“That would really brighten the house for the holidays,” he said.