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Once Palomino student shopper, now thrift store staffer

Stephanie Abril used to attend SVdP’s Palomino Christmas thrift store shopping spree as a child.

In a black St. Vincent de Paul shirt, Stephanie Abril rings up shoppers’ unique finds at the nonprofit’s Hope Chest Thrift Store at 4857 E. Greenway Rd in Scottsdale. As a team lead, she price checks items, sets up store displays and helps sort the latest donations.

It’s a job with a special connection for Stephanie — one she traces back to childhood and her years as a student at Palomino Intermediate School.

Stephanie remembers special field trip days leading up to Christmas, where she and her classmates would walk to SVdP’s Bell Road Thrift Store for the annual Palomino Christmas event.

For 32 years, the Bell Road store has gifted Palomino Primary and Intermediate students a holiday shopping spree. Students pick out three presents, usually, to give to family members and sometimes a toy for themselves.

“It was something that we looked forward to every Christmas,” says, Stephanie, who participated during fourth, fifth and sixth grade. “So that's kind of how I first heard of St. Vincent de Paul when I was little.”

Stephanie always picked out small, ceramic figurines — somewhat like the Precious Moments figures. 

“I remember that every year I would grab three of those, and I would give them to my mom,” she says. “It became like a traditional thing.”

She would carefully tote the figurines back to school, where the teachers help the students wrap their presents before heading home. Stephanie remembers how excited she and her classmates felt to be able to give something to their family members. 

“I remember seeing a lot of kids like really happy, ‘Oh, look, I got my mom this, you know, she's been wanting one of these for a while,’” Stephanie recalls. “It's just something really nice that the kids could give back to their parents or their family members, especially because a lot of kids can't, or a lot of families can't provide that stuff.”

Stephanie never expected she might come full circle one day and provide that same opportunity to current Palomino students. For a second year, the annual Palomino Event will provide students gift cards to SVdP thrift stores, including Hope Chest, for individualized shopping trips instead of hosting a large shopping spree event.

It makes Stephanie proud to be part of the effort, especially after suffering job loss during the pandemic. In September 2020, SVdP had been the only place to offer her work in helping open the Hope Chest Thrift Store.

“This is such a great store to come and shop at, especially not only just Christmas time, but just all year long, because there's so many great items that are so affordable,” Stephanie says. “Not only that, but the funds go to the community, which helps out people that are in need.”

While working recently, she came across some figurines like the ones she used to give her mother. And with the Palomino opportunity this December, she wonders if another student might continue her tradition with their mom.

This article originally appeared in the winter 2021 issue of Vincentian Connection. 

Special thanks to Sagicor Life Insurance Company, whose $25,000 gift saved SVdP’s Christmas thrift store shopping spree for Palomino students this year! Another year of pandemic meant the usual, jam-packed Christmas shopping spree SVdP hosts at one of its thrift stores for Palomino students had to look different again. Sagicor's gift provided $25 SVdP thrift store gift cards to each student so they could individually shop and pick out presents for family and a gift for themselves. Thank you, Sagicor, for keeping this beloved SVdP Christmas tradition and the giving spirit of the holidays alive!