“I had heard there was a thrift shop on base, but I could never find it!” recalled Cheryl Keim, who must have eventually found her way to the thrift shop on Naval Base Guam because this year she received a commendation from NMCRS President Admiral Steve Abbot for excellent service in her roles as thrift shop volunteer and thrift shop lead. Admiral Abbot praised Keim’s efforts to reorganize and update the shop, including a collaborative effort with the Director to create a uniform locker to make it easier and more efficient for active duty service members to buy replacement uniform items.
Before making her way to the thrift shop at the recommendation of some friends, Keim had never even heard of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. She and her husband arrived on Guam in 2010 from Pennsylvania when her husband was hired as the on-base high school principal. Neither of them had any prior affiliation with the military. Keim was working full-time off base when her father died and she had to leave her job to return home to the States for a while. When she got back to Guam, she was looking for another job when friends said they would love her help in the thrift shop. “The day I went to the Society office to talk with them, they asked me if I could start work that day,” Keim explained. “I started volunteering and never left!”
With a professional background in human resources and retail advertising, Keim enjoyed the opportunity to recruit new volunteers and build a cohesive team. She rose to the challenge of learning something new and creative—sorting through and displaying merchandise, developing promotions for the shop, and finding ways to make the shop even more helpful to its customers.
“I got to know when PCS season was coming so we could plan for when lots of donations come in, then in the down season we work on making updates to the sales floor and sorting area,” she explained. The thrift shop is located in the same building as the NMCRS office, so in conjunction with office staff and volunteers, Keim was instrumental in creating a uniform locker room in a space between the office and the thrift shop. Even when the thrift shop is closed, office staff and volunteers can access the uniform locker and allow active duty personnel to shop for uniforms. Keim also uses a Facebook message group for thrift shop volunteers and created a newsletter to keep volunteers informed and engaged.
Working at the thrift shop also led Keim to other volunteer roles in the community. “We have an agency that we donate things we don’t need or can’t sell in our thrift shop,” she said. “A representative of the agency told me they needed someone to teach job seeking skills, so I started volunteering off-base doing that.” Further demonstrating her commitment to helping others, Keim has also worked part-time for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Keim anticipates that she and her husband will return to the States in a year or so, but remains devoted to the Society in the meantime. “Before we moved here, we knew nothing about the military,” she said. “The group at the Society really accepted me and taught me a lot. If there’s an opportunity to volunteering for the Society when we move to Florida, I definitely would like to do so.”