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IFC Humanitarian Spotlight Award

Congratulations to the first recipient of the IFC Humanitarian Spotlight Award - Frances Baker!

Below is a little bit about Frances, how she became an IFC Client and why she is receiving the award.

Tell us how you met Rich and became a client?

In 1984 at age 32, I became a widow. We owned a house with a mortgage, and I had moderate insurance monies and investments, but I was daunted by how I would support the house and maintain it. During that time, I received an invitation for a free dinner with a Financial Advisor talking about securing your future. So, I called up a friend and said we should go. This was not the first one of these dinners I attended but it was the last. He provided clear explanations, ideas and answered every one’s questions clearly and this was the beginning of a very long relationship.

Tell us all about the candy store and how it came to be and you being the “candy lady”?

As time passed and tried several jobs, I realized that my health and my head were just not into working for someone else. But I needed something to keep my mind occupied and my days spent doing something different that would help me stop missing my husband. Rich and I looked for businesses that I might be interested in. Finally, we landed upon a burnt-out store front (they had just had a fire) in a small space on Chapel Street. It had been a candy store, but the owner just did not want to reopen. Candy seemed like a perfect thing to sell but fear overcame me! Could I do this? Would I be able to pay all my bills? Could I make enough money to run my house? Without Rich’s support and guidance taking me through each step of the process, having confidences in me and patience to explain business principles, I would never have done it! He “let” me take a chance. Sugar Magnolia was a fixture on Chapel Street from 1986-1999 serving penny candy to fine chocolates and every type of chocolate in between to Yale Students, dignitaries, theater goers, performers and the community – it was a grand slam and I was affectionately known as “the candy lady” from CT to as far as Ana Capri, Italy.

How about your book, what inspired you to write a children’s book?

I never had children of my own but always loved them. My nieces and nephews were always the recipients of my ‘funside’. We would play games all the time. I got the inspiration for “Alakazam! Alakazoo!” from playing games with my nephew Michael (who is now 28). Children love to win and often get upset when they don’t. This book provides hope for kids who want to win by teaching them that positive thinking plays a big role in life’s outcomes. When we played, my nephew may not have won every time, but he had the hope that if he would be persistent, think positive and try again, he would meet his goal! Coincidence or not – positive thinking does work!

How did you get involved with the UCC Thrift Store?

We joined the United Church of Christ Church in New Smyrna Beach, FL in 2016. Both my wife Ronnie and I felt that once we retired, we wanted to give back to the community. We found that working within the church’s ministries we could do just that. Retail is my thing so when I realized they had a Thrift Store, I decided to volunteer. As is often the case when relying on volunteers, life got in the way and the volunteer manager of the Thrift Store needed to step away. I was asked if I would be the temporary manager. My love of retail, insight into merchandising and my personality kicked into high gear. As I made changes, rearranging shelves, replacing racks and re-merchandising items, we began to make more and more money. Not millions…but…hundreds which is what our church needed. This was and is very fulfilling to me as it makes me realize “I do know what I’m doing!”. Currently our Thrift Store accounts for 34% of the income in our church. We have 20 or so volunteers, we have a preferred customer list of over 500 people and we are open from 9:30am– 3:00pm Tuesday through Saturday. It’s wonderful fun and very rewarding as it provides lower cost items to a community that ranges from the very wealthy to the very needy. Many of our customers call it “Frances’ Thrift Shop”. SEE BELOW FOR PICTURES.

The pictures are of France's amazing candy store - Sugar Magnolia.


Featured in the picture is Frances in the thrift store at the United Church of Christ New Smyrna Beach, Florida.