The Long Island Trading Post, a thrift shop, is tucked neatly inside a small strip mall on Newbridge Road in Bellmore. A wooden rocking horse stands at the entrance, an old bicycle is hung just above it, and vintage signs pepper the walls and windows, making it difficult for passersby to ignore the store — and for antique collectors to resist it.
The trading post is not simply thrift shop, however. The real work of the business is embodied in its second name: Long Island Family and Elder Care.
Co-founder Mark Trucios, an attorney, and his lifelong friend Tom Tuzzolo put their heads together just over two years ago when Trucios’s aging father got to a point at which he needed 24-hour in-home care.
“Mark saw the need and we started helping friends and relatives,” Tuzzolo said in an interview this week. “We realized we could help a lot of people.”
The two friends’ collaboration grew into a nonprofit organization, through which they provide seniors with the help they need to stay in their homes or downsize to living situations that they can afford when they can no longer care for themselves.
LIFEC helps to secure no- or low-cost homecare services for the elderly, using Trucios’s legal expertise to navigate the complicated application process. Their thrift store also houses a small food pantry and offers clothing to those in need, regardless of their ability to pay.
The synergy between the two sides of the business is apparent when seniors who have been helped by LIFEC downsize their living situations and, at times, donate their belongings, from furniture to unused medical equipment, to the thrift store. They are then sold to continue funding LIFEC’s services.
“We’re kind of a one-stop shop,” Tuzzolo said.
Tuzzolo, Trucios and their partner, Bob Newman, are at LIFEC full-time, and as evidenced by the towers of paperwork on their desks, their caseloads show no signs of slowing. In fact, one case can take several months of work, even if a client has all of his or her documents in order.
Still, LIFEC never turns anyone away and operates on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. “It keeps us busy,” Tuzzolo said.
According to Trucios, “the word is getting out” about LIFEC’s services, and the need continues to grow, as 50 percent of Long Island’s population is projected to comprise seniors by 2025.
No one client’s story came to Tuzzolo’s mind as particularly difficult or dramatic. “They all need a lot of help,” he said.
There are skeptics. “A lot of people didn’t understand what we do, or didn’t believe it was true,” Truciois said.
In 2016, a man Trucios described as “our biggest skeptic” came to them in need of help for an aging parent. After LIFEC got him the help he needed, “He texted me, saying, ‘Now I’m a believer,’” said Trucios.
The Trading Post accepts donations of appliances, artworks, collectibles, memorabilia, bicycles, medical equipment and “anything you feel in your heart you can give.”
The store, at 2034 Newbridge Road in Bellmore, is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s closed on Mondays, while Trucios, Newman and Tuzzolo work on their clients’ applications.