BONNE TERRE — Diana Lewis feels she’s lucky to be alive. And she feels like she has been called to help others, especially children.
Three weeks ago she opened a thrift store in downtown Bonne Terre called Bless The Children. Proceeds from the store will go to help children hospitalized at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
She began renting the building at 27 West School Street in late November, but had to put things on hold when her father got sick and her stepmother died. She cashed in her IRAs to be able to open the thrift store.
Lewis will take whatever is left over after paying rent and utilities to Cardinal Glennon. She also takes the children books, puzzles and toys. The hospital does not accept stuffed animals because of the risk of germs.
How it started
Lewis was not healthy. She had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea.
Last September, she had a gastric bypass surgery with hopes her diabetes would go away. It has.
Five days after the surgery, she went back to the hospital because they thought she was having complications from the surgery. Doctors instead found a baseball size mass on her right kidney. A month later, her kidney was removed.
“It was cancerous,” she said. “They said they got it all.”
She still goes to the oncologist regularly. She has a level 4 mass on her adrenal gland that doctors are monitoring. They aren’t going to biopsy it unless it grows more.
She feels lucky to be alive. She feels finding the mass on her kidney was an accident. What if she hadn’t had the gastric bypass?
She began feeling like she needed to give back. She started collecting donations of puzzles, books, etc. for children in Cardinal Glennon and ended up with a trunk full of donations.
Then one day, she went by the empty downtown building and peeked in. Soon, she decided a thrift store was a way to help the children more.
Lewis said she couldn’t do this without the support and help of her husband, John, her son, Nick Julian and her father, Bill Green. She has problems with her back and arms that keep her from doing a lot of physical work.
She knows she can’t do this without the community’s help. She is confident they will support her store.
“I want to keep this going as long as I can,” she said.
She chose Bonne Terre because she wants to see it thrive again.
She said turnout at the store has been good and there have been many gracious donations of items to sell at the store. She said she is willing to pick up donated items if people can’t bring them in.
She has given some items to Helping Hands and people in need, but the main goal will be to help the children at Cardinal Glennon.
She chose Cardinal Glennon because St. Jude gets help from all over the country. A friend’s nephew spent time there, as well as her grandson after he shattered part of his leg.
For more information about the hospital, visit http://www.cardinalglennon.com
She says there are children who are left there by their parents and don’t ever have visitors.
The store sells a little bit of everything. There are books, furniture, cookware, clothing, and toys.
Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. On Mondays, she goes up to the cancer center and then takes toys and books to Cardinal Glennon.
And once she gets out of “the red” from paying four months of rent and only being open three weeks, she’ll write a check and give it the hospital’s board of directors.
“I believe it will support itself and bring a profit for the children,” she said.
Lewis wants to make the business a non-profit, but she will need a board and additional help to do that.
Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at email@example.com.