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Brownsville thrift store manager, 90, keeps busy
If something needs a little muscle around the Foothill Fire Department thrift store, the volunteers know to stand back and let manager Ann Fahl handle it.
"She won't let us lift something," said store volunteer Carol Osborn, beaming as she did so. "If it's really heavy, and there's a man in the store, she might ask him."
Fahl also insists on taking out the trash daily. She gets to the store for the four days a week it's open before anyone else, and she's often there on days it is closed to sort through new donations. On Thursday afternoon, Fahl made a minor fuss when she discovered a shower radio in with the electronics when it clearly belonged in housewares, after all.
After more than a decade running the store, and three decades as a volunteer, Fahl might feel a bit burned out on thrift stores. But just having celebrated her 90th birthday, Fahl said she's not thinking about slowing down.
"I'm just taking it one year at a time," said Fahl, who moved to Brownsville in the late 1970s with her late husband and became involved with the thrift store to help the local fire department get off the ground.
"I like keeping busy. If you don't keep busy, your brain just shrinks," she said.
Putting in long hours at the store doesn't seem to bother Fahl, who ran a restaurant in Southern California before retiring to Yuba County.
In 1980, she got involved with an auxiliary for the fire department, to serve the fire-prone towns of Challenge and Brownsville. The first thrift store opened three years later.
Fahl said she was a once-a-week volunteer until her husband died in 2000. Then, she began to volunteer more to keep busy and eventually became the manager for the store and its 25 volunteers.
"Believe it or not, I come home tired sometimes," she said. "And the next day, all these little wheels are turning in my head about how to improve the store. We do have some wonderful workers."
But the volunteers and customers all give Fahl credit for keeping it all together. Phyllis Jacobson of Brownsville said the store's strong reputation derives right from her stewardship.
"She keeps the place really clean, doesn't sell anything that's not in good shape," said Jacobson, the auxiliary treasurer. "People just donate because it's the fire department."
Fahl said she makes no predictions about how long she'll stick with the store, though she said she's both blessed with good health and can't comprehend giving up her duties.
How she spoke about her recent birthday, in which 100 people surprised her with well wishes and she took a fire engine ride, might provide a clue.
"So now I have to go for 100!" she said.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.