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After 25 years in operation, Doda’s Tickle Trunk, a classic Kahnawake institution, is no more.
“In a way, it is sad, but my volunteers are all over 75. We are concerned about catching COVID-19. It is very dangerous,” said Sunny Joe Cross, who is 91 and has been running the thrift shop since 1997.
The store was not always the place to find the perfect second-hand gift. Frances Dione, who owned a flower shop called Katsitsiio, decided to retire and donated the store to Karhiwanóron Mohawk Immersion school, in order to raise funds and keep the program going, according to her granddaughter and the current school administrator Joely Van Dommelen.
Later on, Dione got the idea of opening a second-hand store to raise more money for the school. The thrift shop was open in the back of the flower shop on the Old Malone Highway, where it remained until now.
Cross, who has spent the last 23 years of his life serving his community, said he got involved and started volunteering at the Tickle Trunk after he retired and moved back home from New York in 1983, where he had worked in the construction industry for 35 years. That’s when he decided to take over.
“I was still young, and I figured ‘let me do something and not for myself but for the community. And it was a wonderful feeling,” said Cross.
“Maybe that is why I feel so good and healthy for doing good. Everything we did there was therapy, even the people that went to work there. They were all mostly elderly, the volunteers, and that was their thing,” he said.
The elders would meet people, talk and socialize. They did work and had a little fun at the same time.
Over the years, some of the volunteers came from the Montreal area, and would quickly fall in love with the shop.
“They ended up wanting to be Mohawk because the people in town here were so nice. They wanted to be part of it,” said Cross.
Cross’ daughter Sharon revealed that schools and language remained the focus of the fundraiser because Cross was a residential school survivor, who lost his language.
However, he also donated to various causes.
“He sponsored a lot of sports activities for the youth. He donated money to Chiapas Indigenous People in Mexico,” said Sharon.
“He gave money to children’s hospitals. He would do a cookout outside to raise extra money, and he would donate it to the hospitals, and to just about anybody who needed it. If someone had cancer, he would privately donate money just to help them through their rough time,” she added.
Cross would even quietly donate money to families who had experienced loss and could use the help for funeral expenses.
“It was therapeutic for him to do this, and he touched a lot of people. People would go there just to speak to him if they had problems or concerns. That is part of his charm,” said Sharon.
Along with Cross, his wife Gladys Cross and his sister Josie Zachary also volunteered for many years.
Community member Peggy Mayo-Standup said that a lot of people were going to miss the shop because it offered essentials to people that really needed it at a very low cost.
The second-hand store mostly sold clothing and home essentials like dishes and sheets.
The Turtle Island Theater group (no longer active) was known to go the Doda’s Tickle Trunk before a show and would clean the place out for costumes and accessories. Many people would also shop for their Halloween costumes.
“He has taught me and my sister how to retire in style and the right way. You don’t just sit around and do nothing. You keep yourself busy, and you keep yourself young,” said Sharon.
“People are very grateful and kind to him. They are very appreciative of everything that he has done. And he appreciates that,” she added.