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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Hospital gift shop celebrates successful first year

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fulton County Hospital Volunteer Coordinator Pam Johnson straightens shelves at the hospital gift shop. The shop Johnson started is celebrating its first birthday, after a year of strong sales. Photo by Richard Irby
After 32 years in nursing, Pam Johnson has discovered a new career in retail sales.

"I retired for a while, because it was just getting too hard to do the lifting and other strenuous activity patient care requires," Johnson explained.

But in 2008, Johnson began working at the Fulton County Hospital part-time, eventually becoming the Director of Volunteer Services.

While working with volunteers, it occurred to her that a volunteer-run gift shop could benefit the hospital and patients.

"When Mr. Hammond (Administrator Joe Hammond) came on board, I talked to him about a gift shop and he arranged to move a staff break room to create space for a shop," Johnson said.

On March 9, 2010, the Fulton County Hospital opened the first gift shop in its 48 year history.

"It has excited people and exceeded its expectations," said Hammond, "and to me it has been exciting to see someone find their niche."

Hammond is talking about Johnson, who has turned out to be a natural when it comes to setting up, stocking and running a retail store.

The store has done so well that, this March, Johnson held March Madness and Employee Appreciation Sales to celebrate its success.

"More than half our business probably comes from hospital employees and visitors," said Johnson. "But we're getting more and more support from the community; people who come in specifically to shop."

The gift shop offers helium balloons and small gifts a visitor might like to buy for a patient, as well as candy and snacks that are popular with employees, as well as visitors.

But word is getting out that, in a town where gift shopping options are limited, the hospital gift shop has some tempting merchandise.

"We now sell Yellow Box Flip Flops and, when we first got them, four people from the Co-op came in to buy. Customers have come from Viola, Ash Flat and Hardy, specifically for them," said Johnson.

Johnson also admits a salesman at a Purse, Jewelry and Clothing Show in Tunica talked her into buying four dozen knit vests.

"I was skeptical they would sell," said Johnson, "but they are almost all gone."

You will also find jewelry, handbags, bath products, candles, baby gifts, t-shirts and other nicely displayed items in the small space.

"Miss Pam, stop getting stuff we like," one employee pleaded after making a purchase.

"We started out with $1,600 that the volunteers had raised for the hospital," said Johnson. The hospital fronted the rest of the money needed to buy shelving and display cases, along with merchandise to sell in the shop.

"We have paid all that money back and now have a good sum in the bank," said Johnson.

Other gift shop revenue has gone to buy flat screen televisions for the front lobby, the south wing waiting area and the conference room in the Swing Bed Unit.

"We are going to buy mulch to help put spring flowers outside the hospital," said Johnson, who hopes to establish an account that will help fund future hospital needs.

"Most hospitals have strong volunteer organizations," said Hammond. "The gift shop is one area where volunteers can make a valuable contribution."

The gift shop is currently open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Gift shop hours could be expanded and other projects taken on, if there were more volunteers.

"We only have six volunteers right now and we are always looking for more," said Johnson.

If you are interested, contact Johnson, who always seems to be in the gift shop.

Johnson admits that, while she is paid for 20 hours a week, she volunteers for a lot more.

"This is my cup of tea," said Johnson.

She loves running the gift shop, working with volunteers and giving back to the community, especially the hospital.

"I have always felt this was my hospital. They taught me a lot here when I was starting out in the nursing field," said Johnson, who has worked at the hospital for about ten years.

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