History of The Little Exchange

The Beginning…1950

Mrs. George H. Mead (Elsie) and her good friend and neighbor, Mrs. George Haig (Ruth), first conceived the idea in the Spring of 1950. In the Fall of that year, with the help of another dear friend and neighbor, Mrs. Walter S. Carr (Dotty), the first Little Exchange opened in the home of Mrs. Haig, on the corner of Katherine Terrance and Runnymede Road in Oakwood. The purpose was two-fold: “to give gainful employment to those unable to work outside the home, to create an outlet for their work, and as a result to donate the proceeds from this work to deserving charities.” “The Little Exchange was established for the purpose of being helpful in our community.” The name, Little Exchange, took its meaning from the “little exchange” of goods for money.

There were five original Trustees. In addition to Mmes. Mead, Haig and Carr, Mrs. James M. Cox, Sr (Margretta) and Mrs. Robert Dun Patterson (Henrietta) were invited to be trustees.

It was a memorable beginning when on the very day of the grand opening of the Shop in Mrs. Haig’s living room, a police officer arrived to inform the ladies that they were in violation of a zoning ordinance! Because they were genuine in their charitable purposes, the ladies were permitted to remain open throughout the fall and the Christmas holidays, closing in January 1951.

While it seemed most unfortunate at the time, this incident actually hastened the success of The Little Exchange by forcing the trustees to consider a permanent location more quickly than they might have otherwise. Mrs. Mead found a suitable home for the shop in the former Katherine Wright Library, Oakwood’s Public Library at 45 Park Avenue, where 50 years hence the Shop continues to thrive. The property, as well as an endowment to support it, was generously donated by Mrs. Mead to The Little Exchange Foundation.

After extensive renovations, the Shop officially opened on Park Avenue in 1951 with 31 volunteers and two paid employees. Upstairs a Nearly New Shop, featuring clothing on consignment, was operated by an additional 24 volunteers.

Exquisitely hand-knit baby clothes, sweaters, socks and charmingly original children’s dresses were the hallmark of the Shop. During this first decade of business, The Little Exchange established itself as a unique place to shop with many one-of-a-kind items.

The charities supported in those early days were: the Red Cross, Sightless Children, Barney’s Convalescent Hospital, the Jimmy Bevis Research Fund for Leukemia and other smaller local charities.

The 1960s

In 1958, Mrs. Mead was elected the first President of the Children’s Hospital Society of Dayton. The goal of this group was to build a much-wished-for children’s hospital. After convincing the public of the need for such a hospital, this society merged with the Barney Convalescent Hospital to form Barney’s Children’s Medical Center. Elsie Mead was elected the first Chairman of the Board of this organization. Thus began a new focus for The Little Exchange and a third purpose was added to The Little Exchange mission: to donate the proceeds of the Exchange to the Children’s Medical Center. In 1961 and again in 1962, $2000.00 was donated to this cause.

In 1963, Mrs. Nelson Mead (Ruth) formed the first Woman’s Board of the Barney Children’s Medical Center. This same year, Ruth Mead wrote thanking The Little Exchange Foundation for their generous contribution of $5,000.00, “bringing them closer to the reality of a Children’s Hospital for the Dayton area.”

The Shop grew…brides were registered, lists were kept, and the advent of the bridal shelves for the gifts selected by individual began! Mrs. C.E. Drury (Ruthie), a talented knitter herself, designed patterns for socks and sweaters for the 25 “knitters” who kept The Little Ex filled with very special items: matching father/son tennis sweaters and adorable bonnets and sweaters for infants. Creative Board members sketched original designs for custom children’s clothing. Birds and bugs and angels were popular motifs to adorn children’s clothing; the clothes were personalized and monogrammed.

The reputation of the Shop grew as a unique place to shop. Cashmere sweaters were trimmed beautifully and became a specialty of the Shop. Mrs. James M. Cox, Sr., designed these sweaters; she worked “miracles with ribbons, embroideries and other trims.”

There was china…and antiques from Europe purchased by Mrs. Mead on one of her trips abroad. There were Lowestoft cups and saucers, antique silver, serpentine chests and stunning antique Sheraton sideboards; exquisite handmade miniature scenes were created and placed under glass domes. In 1964, Winnie Lysell became the manager for The Little Ex. From the beginning Winnie had a long love of, and familiarity with the Shop. She had beautifully decorated cashmere sweaters and made charming children’s clothing for The Little Exchange since its beginning days. Mrs. Russell Theurmer (Ellie) was the volunteer head of The Nearly New Shop at this point. In 1967, the first patients were admitted to the new Barney’s Children’s Medical Center. During the decade of the 60’s, The Little Exchange donated $86,111.00, to this cause.

Additionally, The Little Exchange made the first payment on a pledge of $17,000.00 toward a new elevator costing $48,000.00. This elevator is still in use today, fifty years hence!

The 1970s

The 1970’s began with a buying trip to Europe by Mrs. Mead, accompanied by Mrs. Carr; beautiful and affordable antiques and lovely and unusual china and porcelains were purchased.

As the decade opened, a total of $121,120.00 had been donated to Barney’s Children’s Medical Center, with a new high of $15,000.00 given in 1972. Also in 1972, Arlene Saul joined the staff of The Little Exchange as bookkeeper. In the early 70’s, The Nearly New Chairman was Mrs. Thomas Frazier (Jenny).

The organization and responsibilities expanded, and there was a need to increase the number of board members, as well as to attract younger members and customers. In the mid 1970’s, there was a new focus on buying for men and teenagers and there was a continual search for accomplished “knitters and sewers”. Mrs. James Frame (Marilyn) was in charge of the specialty Christmas decorations created at the Mead Work-Shop, located at Mrs. Mead’s residence…and there were special Christmas shows. Advertising was expanded to include spots on radio and TV and ads in the Kettering- Oakwood Times. While the Shop featured elegant giftware, there was a continual emphasis on hand-made original designs of children’s clothing and sweaters.

Over a period of 20 years, from 1958-1978, a quarter of a million dollars had been donated to the Barney’s Children’s Medical Center.

In 1978, Mrs. Mead announced at the Board Meeting of The Little Exchange that she was resigning. “No one paid any attention, and the meeting moved on…” as noted in minutes. However in 1979, Mrs. Mead announced that she would retire from the Board and that Mrs. H.M. Huffman (Jane) and Mrs. C.E. Drury (Ruthie) would be serving as Co-Chairmen. An Associate Board was formed in 1979, Mrs. Richard C. Cammerer (Molly) and Mrs. W. Anthony Huffman (Pokey) were to be the liaison between the Board of Trustees and the newly formed Associate Board, the purpose of which was to involve younger members of the community.

The 1980s

There were many changes as this decade began…both to the make-up of the Board of Trustees and to the physical face of the Shop.
Major changes were needed in the Shop after almost 30 years on Park Avenue. The front porch was rebuilt, new roofing was added, windows were glazed and siding was installed; inside there was fresh paint and new wallpaper!

In 1980, Ruthie Drury assumed Chairmanship after Jane Huffman, moving from Dayton, resigned. Velma Huston succeeded Jenny Frazier as head of The Nearly New Shop which posted increased profits yearly. Under the creative guidance of Molly Cammerer, the Christmas Open House was developed. The event was enormously successful with gross sales at the first one in 1982 of $3000.00! In 1982, $20,000.00 was donated to Children’s Medical Center, with contributions totaling $356,436.50, to date. In 1984, funds for three neo-natal units were donated to CMC. And in 1986, a 4-year, $150,000.00 pledge was made toward a Neurological Center.

A commitment was made to further communicate out mission to our customers and to continue to educate them as to the purpose of the Shop. A lovely tea honoring all our volunteers was hosted at the home of Mrs. Richard H. Grant III (Mimi).

In the same year, the Board made some important changes in order to fuel and manage growth. Mrs. Richard C. Cammerer (Molly) and Mrs. John R. Folkerth (Carolyn) were made Co-Chairmen of the Board. A Rotating Board was adopted with a three-year term and the option to continue for an additional three years. The Board of trustees assumed the responsibility of staffing the Shop on Saturdays. The advertising budget was increased, an Executive Committee was formed and Mrs. Virginia Frazier (Jenny) became the new Chairman of The Nearly New Shop.

New patterns of china were carried as “open stock”, small pieces of furniture were added to the inventory and monogramming was again being featured; a new guide list for brides was created; and in 1988 Winnie Lysell celebrated her 25th year as the Manager of The Little Exchange. An era ended in 1988 with the death of Mrs. Walter S. Carr, the last of our original trustees, everyone’s “Aunt Dotty”, who was devoted to The Little Exchange and dearly loved by all. The decade ended with 34 brides registered over a 5-month period, sales were up $45,000.00 over the previous year and New York was added as a market for buying trips. On the housekeeping side there were several improvements. A new light post and sign were added to the front of the Shop; siding and a new light fixture were added in the back of the building, the powder room was carpeted, painted and papered…and unfortunately a new roof was required!

The 1990s

The Little Exchange pledged $130,000.00, to a Respiratory Therapy Treatment Center in May, 1990. Antiques again became a focus at The Little Exchange and the Board set aside a fund for buying them; Irish crystal and Herend Pottery were carried in the Shop and gift certificates were created; buying trips were increased to 4-days at markets in Atlanta and Chicago and the very first copy machine was purchased for the Shop! There were so many enthusiastic and qualified new volunteers that each shift had a minimum of 3 volunteers per shift.

In 1991, Molly Cammerer assumed full Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees. While Carolyn Folkerth relinquished her duties as Co-Chairman, thankfully she remained on the Board and in 1994 was appointed Treasurer.

A new “Guidelines for Brides” was created and the very personal service of delivering gifts continued…a trademark of The Little Exchange since its beginning! More redecorating in 1992, freshening up the Children’s and Glamour Rooms…and the Little Ex. became a non-smoking facility. A $125,000.00 pledge was made for pediatric neurosurgical equipment to be used in the treatments of epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

Several local Women’s Golf Associations began purchasing their gold prizes from The Little Exchange. The Shop added Saturday business hours to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday summer schedule; a paid employee was hired to assist volunteers on Saturdays; the Shop began to carry a small line of gourmet food. The advertising budget was increased to $2,500.00 annually and by the decade’s conclusion, the budget for advertising has been further increased to $5,000.00!

In 1993, Mrs. Hap Holloway (Louise), a volunteer of 25 years, retired as a Board Member and head of The Nearly New Shop, and Mrs. Eric G. Gibbs (Jerry), who had volunteered with great dedication at the Shop since 1969, assumed these positions. Remodeling took place that same year in The Nearly New Shop.

In 1994, Ruth Drury, whose mother, Mrs. George H. Haig, was a founding member of The Little Ex, retired from the Board. Her retirement was accepted with great regret. Ruthie had been Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer and a devoted volunteer. Her guidance and wisdom had spanned many years and continues today to influence the direction of the Little Exchange. She was made a lifetime Honorary Board Member. The Little Ex had a technological explosion in 1995: a fax machine and a computer were added…very progressive!

Winnie Lysell, after 31 years of loyal service to The Little Exchange, retired in 1995. There was a lovely reception for her and the “Glamour Room” at the Shop was renamed “Winnie’s Room” in her honor. In that same year, $150,000.00 was pledged over a four-year period for the Patient Resource Center.

1998 marked a milestone when total donations over a 38-year period from The Little Exchange to Dayton Children’s Hospital surpassed $1,000,000.00!

In 1999, a new pledge of $150,000.00 was made toward the Comfort Care Program, a program serving terminally ill children and their families.