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Helping Hands thrift store closer to becoming reality

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

The Helping Hands Thrift Store isn’t just an idea anymore.

The thrift store is expected to open later this spring. It will be located in the back of Grant County Drugs on Barnes Road in Williamstown.

Jason Wallace, owner of Grant County Drugs, donated the 1,800 square feet of space for the thrift store.

The thrift store idea was explored after Jerry Summers and Wil Jones, ministers in Dry Ridge and co-chairmen of the Helping Hands Board of Directors, sought a way to make additional funds to assist with more food and clothing for needy families in Grant County.

“The community support has been good through the years, but we now feel the stress of our limited budget and abilities,” said Jones.

Helping Hands was formed 24 years ago with a purpose of organizing volunteers who were lending a helping hand to local families who may need food, clothing or furniture. It is operated by volunteers with about 15 churches that actively support the organization.

A thrift store, according to the men, will allow some items to be sold to the general public.

Money raised from those sales can be used to buy more food or clothing or used to help families pay for medicines or heating bills.

But before additional funds can be raised, the thrift store is in need of clothing racks, display tables and more volunteers.

“The idea behind the thrift store is not to take away from what Helping Hands does now,” Summers said. “We just need to continue on the path we’re on.”

Even after the thrift store opens, all donations will be brought to Helping Hands where it will be sorted. Some of the items may then be taken to the thrift store for sale to the public.

“We need to have additional revenue because cash is a premium,” said Summers. “Our hope for the thrift store is to increase the amount of money we have to help people besides food and clothing.”

In an effort to run Helping Hands more like a business, Mason Barker, a minister who founded and directed Storehouse Ministries in Covington for more than 20 years, was appointed as the director of Helping Hands.

Barker began working in October and said the transition has been smooth.

“It’s going great,” Barker said. “We’ve changed very little, just a few things like organizing our volunteers into team leaders. We’ve got some great volunteers but we need more.”

With a sagging economy, more families are needing a helping hand.

In December 2007, the organization distributed more than 150 bags of food. A year later, more than 460 families were helped.

“We’ve gotten good community support,” said Jones. “We couldn’t make it without the support of the schools who hold food drives.”

But more help is needed.

“Our shelves were full and now there half empty,” Barker said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t have 10 to 15 families who need food.”