After testing a donated lamp to make sure it works, Jerry Hushour readies it for sale at the Bargain Box. EDWINA HOYLE

In a back room at the Bargain Box thrift store, volunteer Jerry Hushour finishes testing a donated lamp and places it on a shelf.

“Working here is like being part of a family,” he said. “It’s enjoyable – and I may even find a shirt to buy. And there are wonderful people here that I’ve known for years.”

Hushour recently celebrated his 95th birthday. He has been a Bargain Box volunteer for 32 years.

Born in 1927, Hushour was a Depression-era kid who learned to find, fix and shine things up to sell.

As a young boy, searching a dump for anything of value, he was thrilled to find a collection of pocket knives. He cleaned and polished 40 knives and then sold each of them for three or four cents so he had money to buy candy.

Later, his love of golf resulted in a side-hustle. Hushour would search thrift stores for used golf clubs in order to put together full sets. He would put on new grips, refurbish the clubs, and then sell the clubs as a set.

Hushour’s story is one of commitment, not only in his career and volunteer service. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was released from service in 1946 and married his childhood sweetheart, Betty, in 1947. They raised two daughters, Renae and Robynn.

When Hushour retired from a 37-year career as a power house engineer at Ford Motor Company in Walton Hills, Ohio, he built a house on North Forest Beach on Hilton Head Island. That’s when he began his 32-year stint as a volunteer at the Bargain Box.

Hushour’s daughter, Renae, moved in with her parents in 2016 in order to help care for her mother, Betty.

Betty passed in 2019. “We were married for 72 years,” Hushour said. “It was a wonderful marriage.”

Now Renae joins her dad every Wednesday to work at The Bargain Box.

“We both work in the hardware department and try to be good stewards of donated items,” Renae said. “We check to make sure the donated items work – and if not, we try to fix them and shine them up. Dad is proud of his service, and I enjoy time with him. We are honored to be a small part of The Bargain Box. It’s a labor of love.”

The Bargain Box was established in 1965 by three ladies from First Presbyterian Church as a shopping option for the working residents of Hilton Head Island. By 1970 it was generating enough revenue to provide financial support to local social agencies and charities.

The Bargain Box continued to grow, becoming an island institution that has returned $16,045,945 to the community.

“I get the feeling that I’m not doing my job if I don’t come in to work,” Jerry Hushour said. “I’m helping people and that’s fulfilling because so much is given to charity. I can’t picture myself sitting at home with nothing to do.”

Edwina Hoyle is a freelance writer in Bluffton.