The Caring Center reopens in new location

Offers clothes, bedding and household items

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ- The Caring Center, founded in 1988, closed its doors at the end of February, in search of a new location. It recently reopened at 27 N. Center Street, and is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It offers clothes and household goods and appliances, through a freewill donation. Pictured is volunteer Joan Tough, hanging clothes on racks.

By SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ

TIMES-REPUBLICAN

These are the words of Karen Weltzin, coordinator of The Caring Center, says the organization is helping fill a need. Established in 1988, the center had set up shop at six different locales in its 30-year history, having to close its doors at 110 W. Main St. in late February due to the building it operated out of being sold.

The Caring Center (TCC), a nonprofit store, offers adult and children’s clothing, shoes, bedding, towels, home decor, books and small appliances through a freewill donation system. It does not deal in furniture or large appliances. After having no storefront for the last three months, TCC moved to 27 N. Center St. Part of the delay in securing a new location was finding a space to rent that fit into its limited budget.

“We were finding places that charge $1,000 a month for rent, and that was way too much for us,” said coordinator Donna Patton, who has volunteered at TCC the last 29 years, recently aided by her son, Craig Patton, who provides maintenance of the store.

As a way of holding onto merchandise, TCC stored its inventory in private residences, as well as one storage unit. After gaining access to the new building, right after Memorial Day, volunteers have been busy sorting donations, and placing them on shelves and racks.

People are eligible to shop at TCC on a monthly basis and show some form of identification so visits may be recorded. It is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., served by a team of fewer than 10 volunteers in totality. It is funded solely through donations from area churches, individuals and organizations. Around 100 people shop the store on a weekly basis.

“There are no prices on things, but if people want to give a freewill donation, we have a box set up for that,” Weltzin said.

While the clientele all have one thing in common — experiencing some level of poverty — their circumstances are as varied as any group of people’s can be.

“We get people come in from out of state, and from out of the country; people come in who had been in a fire,” said volunteer Joan Tough. “We have people waiting at the door to get in (before it opens).”

Refugees, immigrants, the homeless, disaster victims and those who have fled their homes due to domestic violence, all find resources within the walls of TCC.

Volunteers typically perform the same tasks during each day TCC is open. Lisa Villegas, who speaks Spanish, is frequently called upon to offer translation services between volunteers and the customers. She also sorts donations.

“I take care of the people who come in, and take their IDs, and help out (elsewhere) if I have time,” said volunteer Dee Brafford.

Labor-intensive work, the volunteer staff stays busy keeping the store stocked — pulling items from the back room whenever necessary.

Men’s jeans, men’s shoes, towels, toasters and coffee pots are some of the most highly coveted items.

“If a family comes in, with five children, they take towels and bedding — that could wipe out what we have,” Weltzin said.

Other volunteers include Kay Burr and Ruth Pearson.

“I was looking for something to do after I retired,” Burr said. “I do the sorting in the back room.”

Donations are accepted during normal business hours, and the condition of items should be new or gently used. Donations should also be reflective of the season (warm weather clothing this time of year, and not winter coats, for example).

“We get a lot of nice things in,” Tough said.

For more information, Weltzin may be reached at 641-752-7112.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at (641) 753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com