Longtime volunteers gathered around Sally Montoya at her charity boutique in a bittersweet celebration on Christmas Day. It would be the last celebration in almost 70 years of service Montoya has provided to those in need in the Powell area.
“Sally can’t do it anymore, that’s the worst part,” said Shawn Russell, a volunteer known as the muscle for the group.
The boutique took in donations of clothing and household goods throughout the year and then opened for the Christmas season, inviting everyone in to take what they needed for free.
For years, donations came in so fast it overwhelmed storage facilities, forcing Montoya to have frequent giveaways, open to anyone willing to stop by to make room for incoming donations. But the doors to the boutique will shut permanently on Jan. 5.
During the final days of the boutique, many have come to Sally and volunteers to share stories of how the boutique has helped them through the years, said Michael Montoya, the secretary and treasurer for his mother’s charity operation.
“It’s been fun and has benefited the entire community,” Michael said.
The charity organization, started by Montoya in 1949, has ceased taking donations, closed its storage facilities and is now looking for an organization that will take the last of the donated items. There is little hope another organization will fill in for Montoya and her army of dedicated elves.
“It’s sad,” Montoya said with tears in her eyes. “We’ve had so many wonderful people come in this year and tell us how we helped them.”
Montoya will continue to volunteer to help with the Toys for Tots program as long as she is able. She took a fall earlier this month, breaking three ribs. Stubbornly, she has been to the boutique every day during set up and from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily while the doors are open to the public.
Montoya wasn’t alone, said volunteer Neva Slaght.
“We’ve had a lot more help this year and more [monetary] donations to help us pay for expenses,” Slaght said.
The boutique’s insurance, storage rentals and utilities were becoming too much for the organization to shoulder in the past few years. Slaght hopes the community remembers the example of giving Montoya has led all her life.
“It’s all about Sally today. This is our last supper together,” she said on Christmas. “I think it would be nice if they put a statue of her out by the school.”
More than 20 of Sally’s elves, who have combined for hundreds of years of volunteer service, surrounded Montoya at long church tables for a potluck Christmas dinner. A few had family obligations, but most came to honor Montoya. The food table was filled with pot roast and turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and many homemade desserts. Happy conversations filled the air with Montoya at the head of the family table.
“It’s a strange family,” said Ruth Carroll, a volunteer at the boutique for nearly 30 years, “but we love each other,”