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IFCA Thrift Shop


Retail Therapy—Joyce Markovics Loves The IFCA Thrift Shop

Retail Therapy — Joyce Markovics Loves The IFCA Thrift Shop

One evening as I prepped dinner for friends, I was careful not to slop anything on my new” gently used luxuriously soft sweater, which I had acquired the day before at my favorite thrift store. It didn’t have a label, but I knew it was the real deal — high-quality, three-ply cashmere. Suddenly, my friend’s voice broke my concentration. Joyce, is that my sweater?” he asked. Is it missing a label?” I swung around: Yes. Why, yes, it is!” We laughed in unison. This wasn’t the first time I had purchased something from the IFCA Thrift Stop in Ossining, NY, that he had donated. Last time, I scored a sweet stack of vintage dessert plates. We chuckled the whole night about the incredulousness of the blind sweater exchange. 

I couldn’t wait to share my sweater story with the women who work at the IFCA Thrift Shop. They are a small yet powerful army of volunteers. When you enter the store, you feel buoyed by the energy of the place. It’s warm, pulsing and alive. As the women welcome you with radiant smiles, you’re also drawn in by the colorful miscellany of neatly organized items, including kitchenware, bedding, clothing, jewelry and so much more. It’s one of those shops that has everything you need and don’t need but buy anyway — a veritable smorgasbord of stuff. Another bonus is that all of the shop’s proceeds are reinvested in the community. Started in 1968, IFCA (Interfaith Council for Action), a multi-racial and multi-religious nonprofit, buys and renovates properties mainly in Ossining to create affordable and environmentally sustainable housing. This neighborhood- preservation organization provides what every human deserves — a safe, comfortable place to live and raise a family. 

What’s more, the IFCA Thrift Shop is a community of people who care — no matter who you are or what you’re shopping for. Amy Alpert, the store’s manager, helped build and foster this community with her natural kindness, good humor and immeasurable patience. Formerly a speech and language therapist, Amy began by volunteering at the thrift shop once a week. That was more than eight years ago. I never imagined where it would take me,” she says. My life has been irrevocably changed because of the people I’ve met at the shop.” The regulars who visit the shop weekly — or sometimes daily — are greeted by name. Amy says, The joy for me is that I can see that many of our customers feel that they have found a home, a place to be welcomed.” And, in turn, the customers have embraced Amy and the other volunteers, despite language or other differences. I have been invited to tea and even to a wedding. I have written letters of recommendation and helped others get green cards,” says Amy. 

Amy has developed lifelong friendships at the store. It’s where I met her. When I need a quick hug, sage advice or a belly laugh, I stop by the shop. We lean over the cash register and share our stories. Occasionally, we get teary-eyed as personal struggles are released in one giant exhale. But laughter always returns. For me and others, like Adriana, the shop’s resident jewelry expert and fix-it queen who recently lost her husband, it’s a different kind of retail therapy. Before becoming a volunteer, Adriana, the most vivacious person I’ve ever known, was feeling adrift and despondent caring for her terminally ill husband. She needed a distraction, a boost, a place to be her most luminous self. The IFCA Thrift Shop and its people delivered, and, today, Adriana is back in orbit, shining as brightly as ever and captivating everyone in the store. 

I’m so grateful to Amy, Adriana and all of the other volunteers, each incredibly generous with their time and talents, for creating a shop that’s a world unto itself with no borders or barriers and where everyone is a neighbor and a friend. The IFCA Thrift Stop is a place you leave with a warm sweater in hand — and a full heart. In Amy’s words, This place is not just a store, but a haven, a refuge, a home.” 

For more information about the thrift shop, IFCA, and their important, community-building work, please visit: