Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Cincinatti.Com.
The Second Time Around Thrift Shop accepts hundreds of donations of gently used items throughout the year.
“We sort through the donations and price them for $1, $2, $3,” shop volunteer manager Carol Cleves said. It’s pretty routine work and the items are typically nothing out of the ordinary.
However, Cleves came across the donation of a framed picture of Mickey Mouse a few months ago. In the bottom corner of the matte was an autograph addressed to “Bill.”
“It was difficult to make out the signature,” Cleves said. “But I was pretty sure it said, ‘Walt Disney.’”
Cleves took the picture home that night and asked her son to take a look.
He didn’t think the signature said Walt Disney, but when he looked online, the signature appeared to match Disney’s. Cleves’ son kept looking and stumbled upon the website of popular Disney collector and expert Phil Sears. Sears offered to look at the autograph and authenticate it for free. Soon after they sent him a photo of the autograph, he confirmed it was genuine and offered to buy it for $2,500.
“I about fell out of my chair,” Cleves said.
That kind of money is just what the struggling thrift store needed to make its average profit for 2015. The Second Time Around Thrift shop, located on Eastern Avenue in Covington, is an all-volunteer operation. Its proceeds benefit St. Elizabeth causes such as teen volunteer scholarships, comfort for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome and the pertussis or whooping cough cocooning program. Due to a lack of volunteers, the thrift shop has cut back on hours which has made a dent in profits.
Still, Cleves “didn’t feel right” selling the autograph without the donor knowing its worth, she said.
The next day she contacted the donor, Beth Redwine. Redwine’s family has a close relationship with the thrift shop. Her mother, Mary Ann Menke, helped to establish the shop. Redwine said she didn’t know the value of the signature. The item was left to her after the death of a family friend, Bill Wirthlin.
Wirthlin, of Florence, died in 2012 at age 79 after a long battle with cerebral palsy. In his younger years, he formed a pen pal relationship with several people; Walt Disney was one of them, she said.
“He, with the help of his mother, had written letters to several celebrities,” Redwine said. “Walt Disney wrote back and took a real interest in him. Walt even invited him and his mother to be his guests at Disneyland in California. He gave them the VIP treatment, even taking them around the park himself. It meant a lot to Bill. It was truly the high point of his life.”
When Redwine made the donation of one of Wirthlin’s most precious memorabilia pieces, she said she had just hoped that it would find its way to someone who enjoyed Disney. She never dreamed it would be worth what Phil Sears was offering. Redwine told Cleves to sell the autograph and use the profit to the support St. Elizabeth causes.
“It’s a great way to remember a remarkable person’s life,” Redwine said. “Bill was a good man. The people he touched, he did so in a strong way.”
Cleves said she is grateful for Redwine and her family’s generosity.
“Because we had to be closed so much last year because of the shortage of volunteers, we wouldn’t have made our average profit and be able to do so many good things,” Cleves said. “This donation means a lot to the shop, truly.”