Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club marks 100-plus-1 years, operates Thrift Shop since 1952

The Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club is celebrating its 100-plus-1 anniversary this year.

The purpose of the club, founded in 1921, is to raise funds for Otterbein and its students, according to its website: otterbein.edu/thrift-shop.

Harriet Merriman, thrift store committee member, said the 100th-anniversary celebration was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In the club’s early years, funds were generated through bake sales and rummage sales.

In 1952, the club operated the first thrift shop that was opened in the basement of Cowan Hall, Merriman said. It was moved to several locations before finally landing at its current home in the 1970s at 177 W. Park St.

The club has raised more than $1 million that has been awarded to more than 100 students through scholarships throughout the years, and the group is working toward $2 million, according to Merriman.

She said the club received two honors in the fall of 2021, including the Mary B. Thomas Commitment to Otterbein Award, presented by Otterbein University for its support through scholarships. For giving $1 million to Otterbein for student scholarships, the group also was honored with the Outstanding Fundraising Group Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Central Ohio Chapter.

Merriman said the club plans to celebrate its anniversary with a luncheon at The Point at Otterbein in the fall.

Going thrifting?

The Otterbein Thrift Shop, a nonprofit organization, is operated by the Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club and serves as the main generator of endowed scholarships and the Diamond Jubilee Grant.

Shop hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Suzi Jones, a longtime member of the club and volunteer, said most thrift-shop items are donated by individuals, although a few businesses also have given merchandise.

Merriman said she recalls a mother who had donated a beautiful new wedding dress that had never been worn.

“They had purchased it as a backup in case the one they wanted did not arrive in time,” she said. “It was sold to an Otterbein student.”

Most of the items at the store are marked for $5 or less, but it varies depending on the item, she said.

“I think the shop is the best-kept secret in Westerville,” Merriman said.

She said shoppers are all ages and usually come from Franklin and Delaware counties. 

Visitors will find women’s clothing on the main floor of the house, along with shoes, jewelry, greeting cards, blankets, sheets, picture frames, dishes and home goods. The upstairs has hats and gloves, coats in many sizes, children’s and baby clothing and draperies.

Items in the basement feature electronics, kitchen gadgets, flowers, medical items, sports merchandise, luggage, baskets and crafts.

In a recent Google review, Keith Pepperell wrote, “Delightful ladies and very good prices. A most welcoming atmosphere. … Well worth a visit.”

Another review by Cindy Mackenzie said, “Great prices, friendly staff, lots to see.”

Merriman said donations may be dropped off at the back porch of the store.

“We like to have gently used garments, hopefully clean,” she said. “We cannot take things that are stuffed as we have no way to sanitize them.  Large thrift stores have that capability. We do not take furniture except for small end tables and bookcases.”

Jones said about 30 volunteers help with the shop, from organizing merchandise to pricing items, and this marks the second year the club has had volunteers from the university helping with the store.

Currently, two students are helping as part of their practicum through a public-relations class.

Nathan Leko, a sophomore, said he has been doing social media for the shop via Instagram, as well as pricing and organizing items.

Emma Britton, a freshman, said she has been helping to make the the public aware that the shop exists and what it does.

“Everything here benefits someone else – from the low prices to proceeds going to scholarships,” she said.

Britton said the shop contributes to other organizations that help people, including the Salvation Army, Westerville Area Resource Ministry and Otterbein’s Promise House. She said the Promise House, 86 W. Home St., offers services to help peers and includes a community café, a campus food pantry, referrals to community resources, peer advocacy, volunteer opportunities and educational workshops.


Elizabeth Kane, Otterbein director of development and donor engagement, said four scholarships are awarded annually that have been established by the club.

“The number of scholarship recipients can vary from year to year,” she said. “The first scholarship was established in 1968.”

Kane said there isn’t an active application process for the scholarships. She said three of the four scholarship are awarded through the financial-aid office: the Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club Scholarship, the Donna L. Kerr Scholarship and the Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club Service Scholarship.

Financial aid awards the scholarships based on the criteria of each scholarship, according to Kane.

The student-affairs division identifies students and awards the fourth and final endowed fund, the Diamond Jubilee Grant, she said.

The Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club Scholarship, founded in 1968, is awarded annually to at least two first-year students who graduated from Westerville City Schools.

The Donna L. Kerr Scholarship, founded in 1982, is awarded annually to a student in good academic standing.

The Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club Service Scholarship, founded in 1984, is awarded annually to four students based on their academic achievement and leadership potential.

And the Diamond Jubilee Grant, founded in 1996, provides emergency assistance annually to a student or students who experience unexpected financial hardships.

Otterbein University student Emma Britton contributed to this story.