Better-than-retail therapy supports healing

Longview | November 12, 2018
Catrina Webber beside a gift shop display at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington
Popular hospital gift shop fills short- and long-term needs

Working at a hospital can make it tough to find time to shop at the end of a long shift. And while you can make purchases online, sometimes you just want that total shopping experience, and actually hold an item in your hand before buying it.

Happily, caregivers and providers at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington have a best-kept-shopping secret resource onsite — The Gift Shop — run by PeaceHealth volunteers and coordinated by Catrina Webber.

The 1,000-square-foot shop is a favorite spot on campus where caregivers can pop in during lunch or on a break for “a little retail therapy.”Christmas merchandise display at gift shop in PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington

A unique boutique

Open every weekday, plus some evenings and weekends, it draws many customers with its long reputation for being a unique boutique.

Shoppers always find a wide variety of items, from home décor, mugs, essential oils and seasonal merchandise, in addition to the expected fare of balloons, flowers and plush animals.

Much to the delight of customers, the shop added apparel to its offerings a couple of years ago. “Clothing is the top seller,” Catrina says. Popular items in fall 2018 were boots, sweaters, flannels, jeans and accessories.

Christina Courtney, a PeaceHealth St. John caregiver, says the team behind the counter goes beyond what’s expected to meet “every practical need of our caregivers, guests and patients.”

“Catrina tirelessly searches for the latest trends and popular classics so that our caregivers don't have to spend their precious free time searching far and wide for themselves,” says Christina. “We all feel so fortunate to have these practical and luxury items at our fingertips to spoil ourselves and others.”

Where'd you get that?

It’s common to hear a caregiver get compliments from non-work friends on a purchase from the shop. When asked, “Where’d you get that?” they proudly respond, “I got it at the hospital gift shop.”

Of course, it isn’t only caregivers who delight in the store. “We get a lot of patients who come in for weekly appointments and they make it a point to stop by,” says Catrina.

Vintage photo of gift shop at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, WashingtonSome patients or family members find the merchandise displays a welcome diversion from their reason for being at the hospital. And many return, at another time, to shop and see what’s new.

Sometimes requests for certain types of items will come in. “We do a lot of listening to our customers,” says Catrina, who has been involved with the shop since 2013.

“My favorite thing about working here is our interaction with everyone,” she says.

“We touch everyone in a different way.” Whether it’s a tired caregiver or someone whose father is in surgery and needs a break from the waiting room. “A visit to the shop gives them a happy moment within a stressful day.”

More than day-to-day

Still, remarkably, the shop fills other needs that are well beyond the day-to-day.

All proceeds from the store and nearby coffee stand, Terrace Espresso, are used by the Friends of St. John, a local volunteer organization, to help the hospital and Longview community.

Every year, the group awards $25,000 in medical scholarships to local students.Gift shop display at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington

Catrina says the Friends has also given thousands of dollars to the PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center Foundation to fund special projects, such as supporting the relocation of pediatric rehabilitation therapy, robots for stroke patients and stocking “calming carts.”

Many of us don’t need a reason to shop. But shopping for a good cause — now that’s a win-win, and the Gift Shop has it in the bag.


PeaceHealth is blessed to have gift shops run by volunteers in many of our hospitals: 
In Oregon, Cottage Grove, Springfield and Florence. In Washington, Longview, Vancouver and Bellingham. And in Ketchikan, Alaska.