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Thrift Store Bargains Help Pay High Price for Animals' Welfare

April 18, 1991|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the hundreds of shoppers who frequent the cluster of small businesses along Sunset Boulevard near the Silver Lake Boulevard underpass, the new Neighborhood Animal Group Thrift Store offers bargain prices on clothing, furniture and assorted household goods.

But it is the four-legged residents of the area that might profit the most from the store--believed to be the first thrift shop in Los Angeles County dedicated to benefiting animals.

Since it was formed three years ago, the Neighborhood Animal Group has helped residents in Silver Lake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Los Feliz, Highland Park and parts of Hollywood arrange to spay and neuter their cats and dogs. The group has paid for emergency medical treatment for pets and cared for stray animals until permanent homes could be found, members said.

Until now, the group has survived solely on donations, proceeds from monthly rummage sales and efforts by about 20 core volunteers, said member Carol Garver, a Silver Lake resident. The thrift store, she said, is expected to bring in hundreds of dollars more each month for the group's services.

The small shop at 2850 1/2 Sunset Blvd. actually opened in mid-February. But members staged a low-key, grand opening last weekend to formally kick off the enterprise, with a few colored flags outside the door and a handwritten sign advertising sweaters for $1 apiece.

Inside the shop on Sunday, customers found a variety of bargains: shoes for $1.49 a pair, sunglasses at $2.50 each, an antique radio for $5. Two crowded aisles in the hallway-like store were filled with stacks of clothing, furniture and an eclectic assortment of goods that included garlic fish bait, exercise videos and framed art prints.

After buying two bags of books, dishware and other items, Silver Lake resident Katie Overman described herself as a thrift store junkie who often shops at the used-goods outlets for bargains--and for therapy.

But Overman favors the Neighborhood Animal Group store because she loves animals, she said.

"I know people are starving and I know there are homeless, but someone's got to take care of the animals," said Overman, a community services analyst for Los Angeles County and a volunteer for a Silver Lake boys' club and the Los Feliz branch library.

The Neighborhood Animal Group store, open every day but Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., opened with a $2,000 grant from an East Coast animal foundation. The business is now self-sufficient, earning about $700 a month for the animal group's services, said Toni Peck, a group member and daughter of the organization's founder.

The group was formed three years ago by Joan Peck, a teacher who has spent about 20 years helping stray animals. Peck, who served for 10 years as an animal regulations commissioner for the city of Los Angeles, still heads the small group of volunteers, who regularly use their own money and homes to provide services for pets.

She and other members take in stray and unwanted animals, including dogs, cats and an occasional duck or rabbit, until permanent homes can be found. They answer residents' questions about animal care and drive elderly or disabled people to animal clinics, Toni Peck said.

They have been authorized by the city at times to help trap wild cats or dogs that were causing problems in a neighborhood, Garver said.

Last year the group spent about $30,000 to spay or neuter 553 cats and dogs and provide emergency medical treatment for 270 others, Garver said.

"The money and effort goes directly back into this community," Toni Peck said. "We really feel like we make a difference, and we make a difference in the area we live."

Although there are at least two other thrift shops in the state dedicated to helping animals, the Neighborhood Animal Group store is believed to be the first in Los Angeles County, county animal officials said.

In San Mateo, the Peninsula Humane Society makes $20,000 a month from its 8-year-old "Pick of the Litter" thrift store, manager Jean Marsili said. In San Diego, the Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals earns $2,000 a month from its shop, spokesman Larry Boersma said.

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