Local Resale Shop Thrives in Mission to Help Others
As the economic conditions worsen for some, business at the Sandhills/Moore Coalition for Human Care resale shops on Pennsylvania Avenue couldn't be better.
Beginning March 1, the hours for drop-offs changed to allow more people to make donations to the resale shops. Drop-off hours are now Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 2:30 p.m.
Store hours, for shoppers, are Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. The resale shops have historically been closed to everyone on Mondays, but as donations increase, so does the workload.
Mary Lynn Goulden, the resale shop's donation distribution manager, says they receive, on average, 60 bags of clothing and other items every day.
"Our business has increased at least 40 percent since last year," Goulden says. "On Saturday (Feb. 14) we made almost $2,000."
That's a huge number for the Coalition if you consider the fact the resale shops sell items starting at just 25 cents.
The Coalition Resale Shops are broken down into four different operations. The first is Miss Hallie's Clothing Cottage, where everything is 50 cents. Miss Hallie's is where clients of the Coalition go to use the clothing vouchers they receive, which allows them a certain number of items at no cost.
"What we see here at Hallie's, we see people come in with vouchers and they count out their items very carefully and are very appreciative of 50 cents," Goulden says.
Since 1986, the Coalition, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has been serving the residents of Moore County by providing emergency assistance to families and individuals. Upon meeting with a volunteer screener at the Voit Gilmore Client Services Building located at 1500 W. Indiana Avenue (on the other side of the Southern Pines Primary School) clients, depending on their needs, can receive help paying a bill, feeding their family by receiving a food voucher for the Coalition's own food bank, or clothes from the clothing distribution center, also housed at the client services building, or Miss Hallie's.
Everything the clients receive, including money, comes from donations from churches, businesses and individuals. And the majority of the money spent in the resale shops goes directly back to helping the clients, with the some going to help cover administrative costs like utility bills and other necessary items to keep the shops running.
The other resale shops include Cris and Florrie's Boutique, with prices starting at $1 and up; the Sullivan Furniture and Sundries Shop, which houses furniture and household items, including everything from sofas, to a set of dishes, toys or books; and the Shed, open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, which is a treasure hunt of sorts. Items in the Shed range from 25 cents and up, and in there you can find something as simple as a Rubbermaid container, or something as fun as a fishing pole.
Each shop is run, and all of the sorting is done, by volunteers.
"It is not me that makes this place," Goulden says. "It's the people working every day volunteering. I guide them, but they do the work. We could definitely use some more volunteers."
If you have furniture to donate, Coalition volunteers do pick-ups on Mondays and Wednesdays; just call for an appointment.
And if you are going to donate anything, including furniture, Goulden asks that you donate things that are in good condition.
"We wouldn't have these shops if not for the donations," Goulden says. "People need to be aware when giving things away, they're not stained, torn the quality needs to be there. I can't believe what some people donate. We want clean, gently used or new clothes and shoes for all ages. As long as it's in good condition, we'll take almost anything."
Items the Coalition will not accept include used mattresses, sharp knives, paint, stained and torn clothes, broken appliances or furniture, or computers.
With the high number of donations received each day, it's clear the community knows where to donate its goods. The challenge now is to get the community to shop there as well. There are lots of hidden gems at the Coalition resale shops, for prices much lower than any traditional thrift shop. And the best part about shopping there is that it's guilt-free because every penny spent helps someone else.
And the Coalition is nothing if not about helping others. With a paid staff of only four, more than 300 volunteers make up the backbone of this organization. Volunteers like Deb Pagano, who also serves on the Coalition's board of directors, handle the screening of clients, the food bank, clothes distribution and manning the phones -- they do it all.
Pagano has been a part of the Coalition for nearly seven years and during the mornings, twice a month, she volunteers as a screener, determining what services a client is eligible for.
"As a screener I'm startled by the number of people adversely affected by not a huge difference in their paycheck," she says, referring to the current economic crisis. "Any variance in there throws them off. During the gas crises we had clients who had to quit their job because they were living in the northern part of the county and couldn't afford to get to work. And people don't realize transportation is a huge issue in this county because if people have no car, they have to carpool and that's not always possible."
She said she's seen people come in from all walks of life, in all types of difficult situations, but she said it's easier to sympathize with some more than others.
"I don't have much sympathy for able-bodied people who settle back and settle for less and then come in for help," Pagano says. "I have a lot more empathy than you can imagine for folks who are doing their best but the best isn't getting them up the hill -- it's not about being lazy, maybe they're under-trained or undereducated. It's just desperate, sadly desperate, situations, some involving little children, or senior citizens."
Pagano said the Coalition is here to help people with real-life, emergency situations.
Another volunteer, Nancy Reutter, runs the clothing distribution at the Client Services building. She's volunteered with the Coalition for five years and says she wanted to be a part of this organization because she was inspired by a woman at her church when she was younger and didn't have the time to help then.
"But when we retired and moved here I read about the Coalition and said 'that's where I want to work.'"
Reutter has everything in the clothing distribution center organized down to a science. Everything is in sizes for men, women and children; towels, sheets -- everything has its place. This is where many of the clients come to use their clothing vouchers. There are also a handful of "free" racks at the distribution center as well, anything from coats to pants -- it just depends on the day.
Reutter says it's very moving to work with the clients because they all have varied, interesting stories.
The Coalition is always looking for volunteers for the resale shops, the food pantry, anything and everything in between. If interested in donating time, money, or other services, call (910) 693-1600. For the resale shop, call 246-9845.
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