Akron General Medical Center officially reopened its Petite Bazaar gift shop on Monday under a new management contract with a national firm.

The gift shop remains a project of the Akron General Women’s Board, a group of volunteers that raise money for the nonprofit hospital.

But rather than continuing to have its volunteers manage the gift shop and buy the merchandise, the board opted to contract with Lori’s Gifts, a national firm based in Texas that manages 272 hospital gift shops nationwide.

“That was a painful decision to make,” said Valerie Casto, immediate past president of the women’s board and chair of the gift shop. “It’s been over a couple years that we made this decision. Part of it is the economy. Part of it is volunteerism is a little bit different than it has been.”

Lori’s Gifts has more buying power, which allows it to get merchandise at a better price, she said. The women’s board is guaranteed an undisclosed dollar amount from the gift shop each month, as well as additional revenues if sales targets are achieved or surpassed.

The gift shop had about $600,000 in sales in 2011, the most recent year for which sales figures were immediately available, according to Casto.

Along with gift shop profits, the women’s board also generates money for the hospital through a snack shop, activities room and annual gala.

Since its inception in 1932, the board has donated $5.8 million to the hospital.

Lori’s Gifts and the hospital renovated the gift shop as part of the transition.

Gift shop hours also have been expanded to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sundays and major holidays.

Volunteers will continue to supplement the paid staff from Lori’s Gifts, Casto said. A mix of old and new merchandise is available for purchase.

“This decision was not an easy one, but it’s one we’re happy we made,” she said. “We’re very excited bout this venture. We think it’s going to be a great thing.”

Tree festival record

Last year’s 31st Holiday Tree Festival raised a record amount of money for Akron Children’s Hospital, the hospital recently announced.

The popular community event, held each November in downtown Akron, generated more than $250,000 for the pediatric hospital.

The free festival is organized by more than 1,000 volunteers of Akron Children’s Hospital. Since 1982, it has raised more than $4.5 million through the sale of donated trees and other items to support the hospital’s research and education initiatives and patient care programs.

“People’s generosity allows us to do what we do best — care for the children in our community,” John Zoilo, executive director of the Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation, said in a news release. “This event has spanned generations and to have set a new record demonstrates that the community supports our mission to provide care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay.”

For more information about the event, go online to www.akronchildrens.org/tree?festival.

Nutrition Forum planned

The University of Akron Nutrition and Dietetics Programs Advisory Board is offering information about weight management during its ninth Nutrition Forum from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 8.

The event will take place at the Firestone Auditorium in the Professional Center South building on the Summa Akron City Hospital campus.

Speakers will include Brendan Meeker, executive chef at Glenmoor Country Club; Shirley Moore, professor and associate dean for research in the College of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University; Shannon Perkins, clinical psychologist at the Summa Bariatric Care Center, and Lisa Chapman-Smith, senior vice president of the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance at United Health Group.

Cost is $50 for those who register by Feb. 1. After that time, the price increases to $60.

Register online at https://commerce.cashnet.com/SONCD. For more information, contact the Nutrition Center at 330-972-2836 or email nutrition?center@uakron.edu.

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or cpowell@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.