FORT POLK, La. (Fort Polk Progress) - "The main mission is helping people." This is what Fort Polk Thrift Boutique Manager Martina Piazzon strives to accomplish with the store. The boutique sells donated second-hand items and gives all proceeds -- outside of operating costs -- back to community organizations on Fort Polk and surrounding communities.
In 2018, the Fort Polk Thrift Boutique donated $40,825 to organizations including:
* Leesville High School: Power Lifting, Baseball, Track and Field, Girls Soccer, Cross Country and Dance teams and Band.
* Leesville Junior High School Softball Team
* Girl Scout Troops 2172, 2058, 2101, 2068 and Unit #254
* Cub Scout Pack 72
* Faith Training Christian Academy: Academics/Arts and Technology departments
* Pickering High School: Softball team, Red Devils Band and Color Guard.
* Fort Polk: MOPS, Fort Polk Spouses Club Scholarship Fund, Army Community Service New Parent Support Program and Main Post Chapel.
* Vernon Parish Military Affairs Committee
* Omega PSI PHI
* Girls Fight Back
* Rosepine Purple Pride Band Boosters
"Our main focus is giving back to the community," said Anika Arcé, Fort Polk Thrift Boutique Assistant Manager.
The store is primarily volunteer-run, and maximizes its donations and resources to give as much back to the community as possible.
To receive funding from the store, organizations complete an application, and the Thrift Boutique board votes to approve it monthly. Applicant organizations must be 50 percent military-affiliated to be eligible, and have an emphasis on education, sports and culture.
"Fort Polk is not located in a big city, so to help things keep going, you have to give something -- you have to help," Piazzon said of why the store's community contributions are important.
The store also helps with vouchers for job seekers needing professional attire who are referred through the Employment Readiness Program, as well as care packages for community members in need.
Piazzon said the store also meets the need of offering clothing, household items and more at affordable prices for Fort Polk soldiers and their families and people in the surrounding areas.
Anyone can shop at the Thrift Boutique. Consignments, however, are only open to soldiers and their families, as well as Department of Defense civilians.
The store also has a Five Dollar Bag Sale the first Saturday of every month, in which customers can fill a bag with clothes for five dollars. The next one is Feb. 2.
"We get the things people don't use anymore, and transform it into a little treasure for somebody else," Piazzon said. "We make people happy."
Arcé stressed the importance of the people who donate items to the Fort Polk Thrift Boutique. A donation bin is located in front the store at 2201 Alabama Ave.
"We're nothing without our donors," Arcé said. "They are so important. We are so grateful for them."