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Marblehead pulls $1M out of its Magic Hat

A customer shops at The Magic Hat Thrift Shop in Marblehead. (Owen O'Rourke)

MARBLEHEAD — Tucked away behind the Veterans Middle School, there’s a thrift shop and a small group of volunteers making a little magic for students in Marblehead.

The Magic Hat Thrift Shop surpassed $1 million in donations to the town’s six public school Parent Teacher Organizations at the start of the month.

For 13 years, the nonprofit has been collecting and selling second-hand items from a space within the middle school. The money is used strictly for cultural and enrichment programs related to what the children are learning, said Wendy Roworth, president of the store’s nine-member board.

“When we first opened, we didn’t know if we’d have enough donations to sustain us,” said Roworth. “People said it wouldn’t work. One million dollars later — guess what — it worked. It’s the little shop that just grew and grew.”

All day long, boxes are brought in for donation, filled with clothing, full sets of dishes, and everything in between.

Magic Hat accepts most items, with the exception of appliances and electronics, helmets, car seats, and skis. Each item is inspected for quality before it’s released on the floor. Clothing items with holes, fading, and other imperfections are donated to Planet Aid.

Four days a week, loyal shoppers flip through racks filled with brands like Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, and The North Face.

A Ralph Lauren dress shirt sells for about $8, most adult shoes for about $4, and kids’ shoes range from $2 to $4. Designer brand items are assessed and priced differently. To keep inventory fresh, there’s an automatic 50 percent discount for every item in the store for more than 30 days.

Cindy Schieffer, the co-president of the Village School PTO, checked out with a few lucky finds Tuesday morning, including an orange Under Armor sweatshirt for her son.

She stops in from time to time to support the efforts of the Magic Hat because she has seen first hand how far the money raised at the shop goes for the children.

“Our enrichment budget this year is $20,000 due entirely to money we’ve collected from Magic Hat this year,” said Schieffer. “It enables us to bring in authors of the books the kids are reading.”

Proceeds are divided up among the PTOs of each school, all of which have achieved nonprofit status, and allocated every six months.

When the shop opened in 2005, the first allocation was for $10,000 to be divided among the six schools. Now, an average donation is about $10,000 for each school, said Roworth.

Volunteers log their hours under a school of their choice. Each school with volunteer time earns additional funds. The top earner for the last six months was The Village School with more than $15,000.

The money is used to supplement the school budget for things such as storytellers, motivational speakers, and other enrichment programs.

“The Magic Hat has been instrumental in providing funding to our district for enrichment and activities to enhance the daily curriculum,” said Superintendent Maryann Perry. “Wendy and the board of the Magic Hat work collaboratively with the PTOs to support our district. They are always looking for ways to enhance the program and be part of our community. We are thrilled to continue to work with the Magic Hat. We are always looking for volunteers to work at the Magic Hat so please contact the Magic Hat or the school where your child attends.”

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