8 OVER 80: A business that gives
This is the fourth story in an eight-part series featuring North Dakotans age 80 or older still making a difference in their communities. CAVALIER, N.D. -- Mary Guenther doesn't like to sit around, even when it's time for afternoon coffee. The 92...
This is the fourth story in an eight-part series featuring North Dakotans age 80 or older still making a difference in their communities.
CAVALIER, N.D. -- Mary Guenther doesn't like to sit around, even when it's time for afternoon coffee. The 92-year-old would rather keep working.
That kind of dedication for the past three decades has contributed to the success of the thrift store she manages.
Since 1996, the Cavalier store has donated about $340,000 to local and regional organizations. The volunteer-run store takes out money for rent and utilities, then gives the rest of its profits away.
Guenther's skills even impressed high school students who toured and helped at the thrift store for a Future Business Leaders of America activity.
"She's been helping with the thrift store for many, many years now," said junior Carmen Ermer, 16. "She goes to my church, too, and she's always helping out around the church and always in a helping mood."
Guenther credits her husband for getting her interested in volunteerism. In the late 1970s, she got involved with the thrift store through her church, which benefited from the store's proceeds until the volunteers decided to branch out and give money to community groups.
The store has donated money to a variety of places, such as nursing homes, the local ambulance, hospice, school scholarships and the Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks.
"I love working at the thrift store because it gives me a feeling that maybe I'm doing something for the community," Guenther said. "And, because I was raised at a time when prices were low and no one had any money, I think I appreciate the fact that there are people who need help."
Michelle Murray, Cavalier, said Guenther is like the Energizer Bunny.
"Without her devotion and the devotion of many of them to the thrift store, many programs would not get the funding they get," Murray said. "They have helped many people."
Guenther is proud of the precise records she has kept for the store and said the store's good reputation has resulted in donated items from around the region.
The store is brimming with assorted merchandise and customers eager to visit with her.
Cavalier High School junior Mali Berg, 16, said Guenther deserves recognition for how hard she works.
"She manages everything really well," Berg said. "She keeps everybody going, and she donates a lot of money to a lot of different things and, puts smiles on people's faces."
Linda Otto with Cavalier Ambulance Service said Guenther and the thrift store have been "very generous" to the ambulance.
"She's just a sweetheart," Otto said. "I can see them from across my building. She's there early in the morning, and she's there at night. She's just a goer."
And Guenther doesn't plan to give it up anytime soon.
"As long as I can walk and talk and think, I'll probably stay," she said. "I can't think of anything else I would enjoy more."
Finneman writes for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald
8 Over 80: Mary Guenther of Cavalier from Paul Amundson on Vimeo .