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Unique thrift shop benefits abused animals

[Happy Tails Thrift Shop of Edwardsville is no longer in business.]

Issue date: 11/7/06 Section: Features
The Daily Vidette at Illinois State University

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Happy Tails isn't your typical thrift shop, and it's not just because proceeds benefit abused and abandoned animals.

The shop is housed in an elegant, two-story home built in 1902 with hardwood floors, tall ceilings, massive woodwork, leaded-glass windows, a fireplace in the living room and a built-in hutch in the dining room.

It's decorated with lace curtains and area rugs. Neatly pressed clothing hangs on racks. Dishes, toys, knickknacks and other items are carefully arranged on tables and shelves. Nothing is piled up. There's no musty smell, and classical music plays on a stereo.

"It's nice," said customer Peggy Stafford, who drives from Alton about once a month. "It's clean. It's orderly, and it's reasonable. The lady who works here is very friendly, and it's for a good cause."

Stafford was speaking of Ione Pence, founding president of the nonprofit corporation that operates Happy Tails Thrift Shop. Pence receives donated items from area residents and sells them at bargain prices. Proceeds go to organizations that rescue, shelter, treat, spay and neuter animals.

"I'm overwhelmed by the number and quality of items people give us to sell," Pence said. "There are nine organizations with which we share our proceeds. We just passed the $35,000 mark."

Benefiting organizations include Metro East Humane Society in Edwardsville, Partners for Pets in Troy, Association for the Protection of Animals in Granite City, Animal Rescue and Relief Foundation in Caseyville, Highland Animal Shelter, Adopt-a-Pet in Benld, Bond County Humane Society in Greenville, TreeHouse Wildlife Center in Brighton and Operation SPOT in St. Louis.

Metro East Humane Society receives a check from Pence every month to help operate its animal shelter on Illinois 143.

"It's wonderful," said Executive Director Charity Laleman, noting the money goes into the organization's general operating fund. "It's used for everything from buying kitty litter to paying our light bill."

Pence is a former antiques dealer, college administrator, English instructor, broadcast assistant and publisher of a poetry periodical. Her husband, the Rev. George Pence, is a retired Episcopal minister who's serving as an interim pastor in Godfrey. The Pences own a cocker spaniel, a black Labrador retriever and six cats that all were homeless at one time. Ione Pence opened Happy Tails in 2001 after years of frustration over stories of animal abuse, neglect, abandonment and euthanasia due to overpopulation.

"I thought, I should be able to do something about that,'" she said. "(But) I don't have the emotional stability to go and work in a shelter and do what those people do. First, I'd probably try to take all the animals home with me (or) if I didn't, I'd sit home and worry about them."

Pence initially rented space in a building behind St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church in Edwardsville. That's where she began testing her theory that "thrift shops don't have to be junky," declining to display broken or dirty items.

Pence moved Happy Tails to the historic home at 431 E. Vandalia St. two years ago, nearly doubling its size. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Ella Dowell of Hamel is a regular customer. On a recent weekday, she bought an antique sugar bowl, a plastic storage container, some magazines and a sweat shirt for her granddaughter for $3.57.

"You just don't know what you're going to find here," Dowell said. "You might find a treasure. And when you do buy something, you know it's going to help animals."

[Happy Tails Thrift Shop of Edwardsville is no longer in business.]

Bond County Humane Society
1403 South Fourth Street
Greenville, IL 62246
(618) 664-4068
Shelter hours are 1-5pm Mon, Thurs and Fri. (Sun, Tues, Wed by appointment ONLY)

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