Related topics

Faithful volunteer at Old Greenwich’s Rummage Room moves on after nearly four decades

February 23, 2018 GMT

GREENWICH — If there was a Greenwich Hall of Fame for volunteering, Lea Menegon would likely enter it with unanimous approval.

She has volunteered faithfully at the Rummage Room in Old Greenwich, which donates all proceeds to charity, for 37 years. Even after she and her husband, Benito, moved to Branford several years ago, she continued her regular Tuesday shift at the store, making the long drive on I-95 every week.

Menegon, who turns 88 in March, strikes a modest note when asked why she kept up her volunteer work for nearly four decades — making her the longest-serving volunteer at the Old Greenwich shop at the moment.

“I like the feel,” said Menegon, a native of northern Italy who attended university in Paris before coming to the U.S. with her husband in the early 1960s. “It gives you a feeling of fulfillment. You receive — and you give back.”

There’s rarely a dull moment in the backroom at the Rummage Room on Sound Beach Avenue, where Menegon’s job is to price the used clothing that comes in for re-sale. A steady stream of people bring in piles of clothing, much of it high-end items from closets around Greenwich. Someone brings in an old electric organ and plays a few bars.

She takes her job seriously — keeping tabs on the approximate value of men’s suits and women’s blouses by making regular visits to stores and by browsing through magazines and catalogs. “It takes research” to price the clothing items accurately, she said, though the store aims to keep its merchandise affordable to people of all incomes.

“I need to be busy,” said Menegon, She also stays active in her garden and kitchen, and by walking and doing needlepoint. Her strategy in life is simple — “keep going,” she said.

Beside the Rummage Room, Menegon, a mother of three, has also volunteered for nine years at the Old Greenwich School and for 13 years at Greenwich Hospital. A longtime resident of Old Greenwich, Menegon started volunteering at the thrift shop with some friends — just to spend time in an interesting place with like-minded companions. “I just liked it, and liked the people,” she said. “I didn’t really feel like 37 years. It’s been a pleasure.”

Her husband, Benito, was a longtime home-builder in Greenwich. He does the driving on Tuesdays, then heads off to read or relax at a local haunt while his wife is volunteering.

Store manager Leanne Meyer said Menegon has made a valuable contribution.

“A good role model, and well informed. She really knows clothing,” said Meyer.

The store, which is sponsored by the Women’s Fellowship at the First Congregational Church of Old Greenwich, donates proceeds from the store to local charities, including Kids in Crisis, as well as ones around the region, the country and the world. The store needs more volunteers, Meyer said.

March 6 will be the last volunteer shift for the Menegons. The drive on I-95 is a burden, and after 37 years, she has done her part.

The longtime volunteer will celebrate with a party on Tuesday with family and friends — but it might be a bittersweet moment.

“I’m sure going to miss this,” she said. “It’s not easy for me to leave.”