Shawn Wing celebrates 30 years of service in style at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Langford. Wing loves working in the games section of the store.

Making the most of one’s unique abilities

Thrift store worker contributes in a number of meaningful ways

A special lady with a heart of gold and a passion for life and her work was celebrated last week at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Langford.

Last Friday, staff and friends helped Shawn Wing mark 30 years working at the Claude Road store, where she has a penchant for snagging pictures or items featuring the Beatles, and getting her work done in a jiffy.

Turns out the surprise party for this workplace spark plug wasn’t quite the mystery organizers hoped it would be.

“I know everything,” Wing said after the celebration had died down a bit. She admitted, however, that she was surprised to see her mom there.

“It’s hard to pull stuff over on Shawn,” noted store manager Francina Chilibecki.

Wing’s co-workers had similar themes when speaking of her, calling her a tireless worker who gets her tasks done in a jiffy, but also that she brings zest and fun to the workplace.

Grace White has worked with Wing for more than 20 years at the store and sees her as kind of a combination of daughter and good friend. The women’s sorting stations are side by side and they work quite closely together, which has allowed them to develop quite a bond over the years, both professionally and personally.

“She’s sort of my right arm,” White said, adding “we’re just like family. She’s my lunch buddy.”

When asked what her favourite part of the store is, Wing paused and thought carefully while straightening items on the shelves. “I like the puzzles and games,” she finally decided. But she admitted they are often left in a mess when people browse through them.

It’s never difficult to get Wing in the spirit of the season, no matter what the holiday or occasion.

“She dresses up for Halloween and celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter. And she’s the first one to send a Christmas card,” said White. “She’s been a delight; she’s made it lighter and fun.”

Wing, who is 55 and lives in a suite in her parent’s home, has the energy and attitude of someone much younger, which helps keep her fellow staffers smiling.

Karel van de Wijngaard, a longtime St. Vincent de Paul staffer who worked with her for 12 years, called Wing a special person who is not limited by her disabilities, but makes the most of the abilities she’s been blessed with. He remembers her being somewhat shy and reserved when he first met her.

“Shawn found herself and lost some of her inhibitions and shyness,” he said, adding that she “brought colour (to the workplace).”

Wing is prone to wearing big sunglasses or other accessories to help keep the mood light at the store.

Although, whatever task she is working on, “I’m done like that,” she said with a snap of her fingers. “Then I say ‘anymore?’” she added with a laugh.

Doing her job well is important to Wing, but so is having fun, White said. “She’s got good common sense but she’s also got real flair.”

Chilibecki appreciates what Wing brings to the store four days a week, including the fact she provides a fresh outlook on things. “It’s great. Every day is the same, but different. You see life through a different perspective.”

While Wing’s abilities have prompted her co-workers to encourage her to become involved in other activities or perhaps take on a more challenging occupation, she’s content being at the store with friendly faces and a job she can do almost with her eyes closed.

“I’m going to stay here a long time,” she said. “I’m still ticking.”

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