In the Biblical account of the story of Noah's Ark, God protected and nurtured Noah, his family and animals from a global flood.
The story line is not too much different at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church Noah's Ark Thrift Shop - except for the menagerie of animals. The thrift shop draws countless residents and visitors from around the world who seek the warmth and camaraderie offered in the little ark-like building.
And those waiting to go back to Noah's Ark - which has been closed for a month and a half of cleaning and remodeling - can get their shopping bags out because the shop will be reopening today at 9:30 a.m. When Noah's Ark reopens in October it will be open on Tuesdays and Fridays only until they reopen fully for season on Nov. 1.
The non-profit thrift shop which carries gently used and in many cases new designer clothing, furniture and household goods is a mecca for those looking for deals and for socializing.
The about a quarter of a century shop caters to the well-heeled looking for an incredible find, the struggling trying to make ends meet and to those just looking for a friendly face.
"It's an institution," said Betty Modys, a volunteer at Noah's Ark. "We're almost like a meeting place."
At least 70 seemingly tireless volunteers work throughout the week to organize, sort, stock and inventory items donated to Noah's Ark.
The new inventory is filled with spectacular deals and finds, including an $80 Michael Kors top for $8, Mikasa dinnerware, a Robb & Stuckey chair for $75, Waterford dishes and a carved duck by Tom Ahern for $150. The piece would typically go for $450, according to Noah's Ark staff. And for holiday enthusiasts there is a huge inventory of Halloween costumes and decorations as well as Autumnal and Thanksgiving adornments. There is even a fiber optic plush turkey.
"There's plenty of stuff to open up with," Modys said. "We have some really good stuff. There's enough Halloween stuff to have the biggest party."
But as volunteers scampered through the immaculate shop making last minute preparations and hanging clothes, a sense of joy and reverie was palpable.
Sue Scutakes smiled as she steamed shirts to be put on racks. She said she is looking forward to getting to know all of the customers that will be coming to the shop as well as the regulars.
Lynn Kern is one of the regulars. She gets a gleam in her eye when she thinks about her favorite shopping haunt.
"It's the thrill," she said. "Shopping there is a shopping event. I don't know here you can get so much for so little."She often buys toys and games for her grandchildren when they are visiting and then donates the stuff back when they leave.
"It's very green," she said.
Kern marvels at how hard the staff work to keep Noah's Ark afloat. Kern, a volunteer at the island human care agency FISH notes how many people depend on getting affordable household items. And for some Noah's Ark becomes a means for social interaction - away to chase the blues of loneliness away.
"They are so much to so many people," Kern said.
But the store is more than a store where pleasantries are exchanged and deals are made.
"It's a ministry," Modys said.
Modys and the other volunteers are members of the St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church. Giving back and being of service to others is a main tenet of their Christian faith.
Last year the thrift shop helped organizations such as: Brightest Horizons, Community Housing Resources, Fort Myers Soup Kitchen, F.I.S.H., Girls Making it on Purpose, Habitat for Humanity, Hope Hospice, Southwest Florida Addiction Services, and Quality Life.
And since much of the inventory that is sold comes from estates donated by families, volunteers encourage family members to continue bequeathing the donations when a loved one passes away.
"It's difficult to do," Modys said. "At least you know it's going to a good place."
Receipts are giving to people who make donations.
Ample free parking is available on the church property. For more information about the store, call 472-3356.