Approaching the 70th year of her crusade to care for our less fortunate neighbors, Sally Montoya is searching for a miracle.
“If I could win the lottery, I would buy a big building and we could keep [Sally’s Boutique] open all year,” Montoya said. “That’s always been our dream.”
Barring a one in 300 million chance of winning the Powerball, the annual free-for-all Christmas season boutique will close permanently on Jan. 5. The charity plans to stop taking donations of clothing and household goods on Dec. 14, a little more than a week before opening the doors of the former One Stop Shop/Burger King building on South Fair Street for one last season of giving.
Montoya’s small team, known as her elves, will continue to work with Toys for Tots and the Powell Council of Community Services to provide presents for children and meals to help families in need enjoy the holiday season. But the boutique will shut down, leaving a void for families who have relied on her generosity for decades.
The group has been met with both added expenses and sore backs, contributing to the difficult decision. This year, the building owner decided he could no longer cover the cost of utilities for the facility, which has housed the boutique while sitting empty. The boutique held a special rummage sale to help pay the hefty bill to keep the lights and heat running, but Sally and her elves have reached the age where collecting and setting up the boutique has become a strain.
“We’re all getting old,” said Neva Slaght, nicknamed “Keebler” by members of the volunteer group. Despite calls for volunteers through the years, the group has found it difficult recruiting younger helpers.
Setting up the boutique is a year-long effort. Items are donated throughout the year and moved to storage by the elves. Often, whole households are donated after a death and the elves become movers. When storage units are full, Sally hosts giveaways — including four in the past year — to make room for more. Then, in preparation for the opening of the boutique, tons of goods are moved and set up for the public.
The need for assistance has grown through the years, Montoya said.
“It wasn’t big like this when we first started,” she said.
Now the boutique serves people from across the region.
“People come from all over, including Montana,” Montoya said. The boutique opens Dec. 22 and will stay open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (including Christmas) in its final season.
Other efforts that Montoya has helped with, however, are continuing — including the Christmas basket program.
Requests for assistance from the Council of Community Services have gone up slightly, based on requests for Christmas baskets in recent years, said David Blevins, chairman of the council for more than 30 years.
“Powell is fairly stable and we’re lucky to have such a sharing community,” Blevins said.
The council is currently looking for a new chairman as Blevins plans to step down from his long-time volunteer role. It’s a big commitment, but very rewarding, he said. Blevins said he’s sad to hear the boutique will be closing.
“Sally [Montoya] has had a terrific impact on this community. The boutique will be missed, but not Sally’s spirit of giving,” he said.
Cody resident Nick Martin has stepped into the role as campaign coordinator for Toys for Tots in Park and Big Horn counties, replacing long-time volunteer Harold Wages. Martin became involved in the group while serving nine years in the Marines, including two tours in the Middle East. Toys for Tots was started in 1947 and is run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve. After returning to Cody, a serendipitous meeting with Wages led to Martin’s involvement in the area program. Volunteering for the group touched his heart, he said, leading to the new role.
“Sometimes a family will have to make the choice between paying the electric bill and buying toys for their kids so they’ll have something under the tree,” Martin said. “That’s why we’re here — so they don’t have to make that choice.”
Applications for food baskets and toys will be available starting today (Friday) at the Powell Police Department and must be returned by Dec. 12. Materials will be distributed on Friday, Dec. 21 from 1-3 p.m.
On Christmas Day, volunteers at Sally’s Boutique will celebrate the religious holiday together. They’ll sit down for a meal and memories while keeping the boutique open for those in need.
“A lot of people come in on Christmas,” Slaght said.