Volunteer Richard Gardiner in The Man Cave of the Suncoast Hospice Resale Shop

In the back of the Suncoast Hospice Resale Shop in St. Petersburg, there is a nook where many donations make a stop before reaching the sales floor.

In this corner there are assorted tools covering the wall and filing cabinets filled with salvaged odds and ends. Classic rock hits play softly over the radio. It is reminiscent of a stereotypical suburban dad’s garage, earning the apt nickname of The Man Cave.

Several times a week a few volunteers set up shop here, sorting through the various electrical items that have been donated to the Resale Shop. Sometimes they even bring their own tool bags. Richard Gardiner is one of the men who is responsible for checking and, when needed, fixing these items.

He found himself as volunteer at the store completely by chance.

“My wife and I were here shopping one day and they had a sign saying they were looking for volunteers,” says Gardiner. “It’s been about a year since then. I started out four hours a week on Friday and now I’m here three days a week.”

Gardiner often starts his shifts in the early morning, before the other volunteers arrive. Steadfast in his service he is occasionally tasked with prepping the cash registers for the day, but his favorite part of the job is tinkering with donations to give them new life.

As donated items enter the back room of the shop, they are sorted by department. Before these items are priced and displayed for sale, they go through a series of checks to ensure they meet quality standards.

Anything in the realm of electronics ends up in The Man Cave. From there, Gardiner or one of the other volunteers will do a visual check for any damage or deterioration. Then they test to make sure it is still in working order. If it doesn’t function properly, these volunteers do their best to find the issue and repair it. Once an item is ready for sale, it is priced and sent to the front of the shop.

It’s anybody’s guess as to what may come through the donation door later. On this particular day Gardiner has already tested a coffee maker and a clock. A waffle maker is waiting on the counter and a vacuum sits nearby.

Originally from Baltimore, he got his start working on private branch exchange (PBX) telephone systems. The skills from his career in that industry have proved valuable to his volunteer time.

“When I started here, I told them I can fix anything,” explains Gardiner. “The other guys started giving me anything that gave them trouble.”

From lamps and electric stoves to telescopes and cameras, there is always a challenge waiting. If he can’t figure something out during his volunteering shift, Gardiner will often take items home to continue working on it.

Repairing items in the back of the store may not be the most glamorous job, but it’s one that keeps the Resale Shop running smoothly and offers a sense of pride for Gardiner.

“I love it here,” he adds. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity.”

Help Your Community – Be a Volunteer

Volunteers like Gardiner are just one part of the larger Suncoast Hospice Resale Shop ecosystem. Our volunteers also greet donors, sort, price and stock items and assist customers at the check-out counter. Just like the merchandise that is available, there is something for everyone.

To learn more about our volunteer opportunities visit EmpathHealth.org/volunteer.