Buy Once, Give Twice

Stop at the Depot for Gifts that Give Back

While shopping for holiday gifts this season, why not visit a local shop that supports a good cause? The Depot Gift Shop, located at 22 Prospect Street in Midland Park, is operated by a staff of 90 volunteers who donate their time because all of the store’s proceeds benefit Children’s Aid and Family Services (CAFS).

Co-Directors Maureen Grassi and Adrienne Tenbekjian acknowledge that the tremendous contribution of time and talent from hundreds of volunteers over the years has led to a total of $3 million in donations to the organization.

Celebrating its 55th anniversary this year, the Depot Gift Shop was initially located in the baggage room of the Ridgewood Railroad Station (aptly named The Depot) and moved to its present location in 1978. The Depot’s mission is three-fold: to support CAFS, to provide an outlet for artistic ability and income for crafters (many of whom are senior citizens), and to offer a warm and friendly atmosphere for shoppers and volunteers while providing a service to the community.

The Depot is a part of the Federation of Women Exchanges, promoting economic stability by providing a venue for individuals to sell handcrafted items. There are 20 member businesses throughout the US, each supporting its own charity. The Depot is the largest member of the Exchange and the only one that is entirely volunteer-based.

“I began as a Saturday volunteer,” says Maureen. “Once I retired from my full-time job, I began taking on more responsibilities. It makes you feel good to help other people. We are lucky to have volunteers who have professional backgrounds, including the airline and food industries, pharmaceuticals, education, etc.  They, in turn, learn merchandising, negotiations, accounting, and sales. They pick up other skills along the way and are able to give back to the community.”

The entire staff is proud to support CAFS, one of northern New Jersey’s leading nonprofit providers of human services and child welfare programs. CAFS provides adoption and foster care services for children with special needs, and programs and community homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. They offer assistance to pregnant teens and young moms through a residential home facility and are a critical provider of early childhood education, childcare, substance abuse programs, and assistance for low-income families.

“The people who work at CAFS are very dedicated, and we are proud to help them out,” says Maureen.

The Depot features handcrafted one-of-a-kind items created by local artisans as well as regular retail items, including tableware, pottery, kitchen gifts, stationery, candles, and seasonal décor. Make the Depot your first stop for cherished baby gifts like handmade sweaters and blankets. The store also carries handmade toys and personalized items, garden-themed gifts, homemade jams and mustards, handbags, and shawls, along with Vera Bradley and Nora Fleming retail lines. The store also showcases beautifully handcrafted jewelry.

“Many of our volunteers have been with us for a long time,” says Maureen. “We have a great rapport with our “regular” customers, but we love introducing new visitors to the shop and telling them about the Depot and CAFS.”

The Depot’s unique knack for personalized customer service compels some shoppers to volunteer at the store. “It’s a big responsibility and definitely a team effort,” says Maureen.

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