Stories are an important way for Saint Vincent de Paul to connect to the community by showcasing our clients, staff, programs, and volunteers. To two of our star volunteers, their stories are greatly influenced by books. Renee Matsumoto and Marne Chapin Schreiber are San Leandro natives who have graciously dedicated their time to a cause dear to their hearts. The SVdP thrift store in Fremont prides itself on its vast and organized book department, and it’s mostly thanks to Renee and Marne. Renee came across the thrift store due to her passion for reading. She says, “I love to read, and when I worked in Fremont, I found the SVdP thrift store. I was able to buy many books through the years at very reasonable prices. When I retired, I had made up my mind to volunteer at SVdP, but I really only wanted to work in the book department.” Renee’s wishes came true and she began volunteering in 2015, when the book department was much smaller, and, though enjoyable, it was too much work for her alone.
Fortunately, last year, Renee’s “prayers were answered” and Marne joined the team. Renee and Marne immediately clicked, with Renee recognizing Marne’s love to read from the beginning. Marne has had a life full of book-related jobs. She has been a library clerk at an elementary school and a high school, volunteered as a book mender and docent tour guide at Fremont’s main library, and became the publicity chair for the Fremont Friends of the Library. She worked as the publicity chair for twenty three years and had hoped to return to her volunteer work at the Fremont library upon retirement. Unfortunately, they weren’t looking for volunteers at the time. According to Marne, “[...] when God shut that door, he opened another one for me directly to Patty and right into the Saint Vincent de Paul thrift store in Fremont and their thousands of books!” Marne fell in love with the opportunity to work in her own “private library.”
Together this team is unbeatable. They both agree that one of the best parts is meeting and working with each other. Renee comments, “Marne loves books as much as I do. We make a good team.” Marne returns the sentiment, saying, “We think so much alike and get along so well. It is a privilege to volunteer alongside her.” Presently, Marne and Renee only volunteer one day a week, but they are hoping to expand to two in the near future. The love and passion for this thrift store is apparent. Marne tenderly refers to the store as “our happy place.”
Their similar mindsets have helped in the necessary reorganization tasks. They have focused on making the search for the perfect book more accessible to customers. “A big part of our reorganization of the store’s book collection has been breaking out special sections and identifying them with easily readable shelf labels. For example, we took a hodgepodge of books labeled ‘Literature’ and developed sections for ‘Writing,’ ‘Poetry,’ ‘Plays’ [...]” reveals Marne. Accessibility is key to sharing the wonderful world of reading and imagination with the community. Renee adds, “While we still have more to do, we are proud to show off the book department. No matter what our customers are interested in, we’re sure to have a book for them!”
The SVdP thrift stores are a wonderful way to find things for a reasonable price. Better yet, the proceeds go to the SVdP programs and the mission of neighbors helping neighbors. Consider checking out one of the thrift stores (located in Fremont and Livermore) on your next shopping excursion. It is also worthwhile and welcome to donate gently used items to the thrift stores; your old books could become someone else’s next treasured story.
By Juli Jugan and Jessica Mott, Saint Mary's College of California