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Bet your bottom dollar

On-site Treasure Chest benefits Oak Crest in more ways than one

Created date

November 9th, 2017
Helen Davis, who lives at Oak Crest, has managed the community’s on-site Treasure Chest for two decades.

Helen Davis, who lives at Oak Crest, has managed the community’s on-site Treasure Chest for two decades.


Everyone likes a good deal, and Nadine Wellington is no exception. When she’s on the hunt for a bargain, Wellington heads over to the Treasure Chest, an on-campus thrift store run by the residents of Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md.

“Where else can you get name-brand skirts for $3 and a matching jacket for $4?” says Wellington. “I have bought clip-on earrings for my mom, wrapping paper, and Christmas ornaments. One of my favorite finds is a beautiful ceramic birdhouse that I have hanging outside my office window. I enjoy watching the birds build nests in it every spring.”  

Everything but the kitchen sink

Open Thursdays and Saturdays to all Oak Crest residents and their friends and families, the Treasure Chest sells everything from clothing and collectibles to kitchenware and small furniture pieces donated by Oak Crest community members. 

The store is run by a small army of roughly 60 residents who volunteer sorting, fixing, and pricing the donated items which are then sold. All of the proceeds support various clubs and organizations in the community.  

Longtime resident Helen Davis serves at the helm. 

“It takes a lot of time to separate and price the inventory,” says Helen. “Our goal is to keep things affordable. However, because we have limited space, we are particular about the donations we take. From experience, I can tell what kinds of things will sell and which ones won’t. Sometimes we are so loaded with donations, we work late in the evenings until 9 or 10 o’clock.”

Labor of love

Helen has managed the Treasure Chest for two decades. After raising ten kids, she’s honed her organizational skills to keep the store running smoothly. 

“I feel like this has been my ministry to help other people,” says Helen. “We get people whose children or grandchildren are getting their first apartment and they are looking for things for them. We have had people who lost everything in a house fire and are looking for inexpensive ways to replace those items. And then there are people like me who are just looking for a good deal.”

The Treasure Chest holds an annual Christmas and jewelry sale the first Friday in November, which is popular with bargain hunters hoping to jump-start their holiday shopping.  

“I collect and set aside brand new items with the tags still on them throughout the year that are donated to the Treasure Chest. You would be surprised; we get brand new clothes, shoes, unopened packages of Christmas cards, decorations, even Christmas trees. It’s a great opportunity to pick up a gift for someone or for yourself,” says Helen. 

Oak Crest resident Bunny Waitkus conveniently lives two floors above the Treasure Chest and has been Helen’s right-hand woman for the last ten years. 

“When we first moved to Oak Crest I had boxes and bags that I thought they might be able to use at the Treasure Chest, so I took them down to the store. At that time, they were in need of volunteers, so I mentioned to Helen that as soon as I finished unpacking and got settled I would come down and lend a hand,” says Bunny. 

It’s not unusual for Bunny to spend 20 to 30 hours each week sorting donations for the store. 

“We get pictures, furniture, flower pots, pots and pans, ladies and men’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, knick-knacks—all sorts of things come through,” says Bunny. “I enjoy it. I like to keep busy, and I feel it’s a worthwhile thing. Plus, there is an added benefit: we get first crack at all the donations that come in. I’ve bought tops, pants, jackets, basic stuff. Some of us, our entire wardrobe is from the Treasure Chest.” 

Any items that don’t make it into the Treasure Chest are donated to area homeless and battered women’s shelters, and The Salvation Army. Over $1,000,000 has been raised by the Treasure Chest since its inception 21 years ago.

“The volunteers who pitch in and help out are amazing,” says Wellington. “It’s a great opportunity to serve, to socialize, to make new friends, to get out and moving, to use your brain, to get the scoop on what’s happening around town, and of course to get that bottom line bargain.”