Shirley Helmick has long enjoyed yard sales and bargains, so when the opportunity to open her own thrift store came to fruition she jumped at the chance.
Now, just more than a year after opening her Nana-Banana’s Bargains/Thrift Store on South Belair Road in Martinez, Helmick is humbled by the returning customers who keep her store in business.
Helmick’s customers return – and spread the word of her store – for a number of reasons.
“She has a nice, clean store and we always find wonderful things here,” said Vickie Ogden, a frequent customer. “And because of what she does for the kids.”
The “kids” that Ogden is referring to are the cancer patients who are the beneficiaries of Helmick’s profits. Over the past year, Nana-Banana’s has given more than $1,600 to childhood cancer organizations, including the Press On Fund and the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology unit at Georgia Health Sciences.
“My daughter went to school with some girls whose children were diagnosed with neuroblastoma,” said Helmick. “I lost both my father and mother to cancer. When I hear ‘cancer,’ it just scares me to death and when it’s kids, it just breaks my heart.”
Helmick has made it her mission to donate all profits – after expenses such as her lease and power bill – to childhood cancer organizations. The store is operated solely by volunteers and posts its mission statement for all who walk through its doors.
“We want to help out our community by offering great items at great prices in order to ultimately help out awesome children who are fighting childhood cancer,” said Helmick, who made a $900 donation to Georgia Health Sciences last month. “We do this by operating solely on donations and volunteers. We pray that the Lord blesses us so that we can, in return, bless others.”
Volunteer Wilma Butler said she firmly believes that God brought her to Nana-Banana’s.
“The cause is so great,” said Butler, who along with Connie Houmiel, Patty Stewart and Cindy Helmick, volunteers at the store, sorting, pricing and stocking donations.
“I couldn’t do this without our volunteers,” said Helmick.
When Helmick fell in the store last summer, Houmiel and Butler were there to come to her aid. In her absence and following surgery, the volunteers at Nana-Banana’s Bargains kept the store running.
“I don’t know what I’d have done without them,” said Helmick.
“We’re family,” added Butler. “We are dedicated to the store and to each other.”
The volunteers at Nana-Banana’s have been there since the store opened. Most started within a few months of the grand opening and call it a place where they feel like they are doing good.
“We don’t have a lot of profits, but we have fun,” said Helmick. “I just want to help kids as much as I can and stay here as long as I can.”