DANVILLE (CBS 5) – A simple thrift store in Danville has become a community mainstay. The mission behind the market has earned the store’s founder a Jefferson Award.

As Marge Early looked around The Thrift Station in Danville, she marveled at the professionalism at the all-volunteer operation. An army of volunteers sorted through thousands of donations that filled the shelves with clothing and household items, attracting a steady stream of shoppers. Early started it all, with a $300 loan from her mother, and a small group of volunteers in Danville.

“No one had any experience at all in the mercantile business,” Early remembered. “Hardly anyone had had a job!”

But with hard work, their idea paid off. Today, the Thrift Station is one of the top 25 businesses in San Ramon Valley, and all its profits support community mental health, including the Discovery Counseling Center, a hub offering mental health services that are affordable and easily accessible.

This year marks 40 years since Early and the other volunteers calling themselves “Friends of Discovery” started the Thrift Station. By the end of 2013, they will have donated over $7,000,000 to the Discovery Counseling Center of the San Ramon Valley.

“The Friends of Discovery and Marge have meant we have been able to keep our doors open,” said Executive Director Kathy Chiverton. “There is no (other) way we could offer the service we offer at the fees we charge and still stay in business.”

In the early days, they were just trying to raise money for a drop-in center for troubled teens.

“They just wanted to give them some place to go to where they could possibly straighten themselves out,” Early explained.

Today, the center has interns, graduate students working toward their professional licenses, in every school in the San Ramon Valley School District. All are supervised and trained by a staff of licensed professionals. At the drop-in clinic, they see clients from the community six days a week.

“What they have been able to do with what was just an idea and a couple of women saying, ‘We will sell our extra clothes,’ is absolutely remarkable,” Chiverton said.

“I guess that’s it, you see a need and you fill it,” Early added.

For creating a business that helps bring mental health services to everyone in her community, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Marge Early.

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