By Sarah Thomas
The Westside Free Store Ministries, located at 61 S. Powell Ave., hosts a community meal every Saturday, after which people can shop for donated clothes and small items. On Nov. 11, they were supposed to offer an additional “Thanksgiving-in-a-bag,” a bag of take-away food for Thanksgiving. However, the organization that was supplying the food withdrew.
This was the first time the Westside Free Store had offered this event, and now they are scrambling to make do and still provide something for their clients, said Jackiethia Butsch, the executive director of the Free Store. She said they are working with places to give another opportunity for their clients to take something home.
Even though those in attendance did not have a take-away bag, there was a hot Thanksgiving meal available to eat in the gathering space. Butsch said the food was donated by NBC Suites. Normally local churches will donate the food for the meal every Saturday.
The Free Store has been on the Westside since 2004 and serves anyone who needs it, regardless of circumstances.
“Who are we to say you can’t get something,” Butsch said. “We cater to every single person, no matter the circumstances.”
The Saturday meal begins at 11 a.m. and the store is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. In addition, the store is open on Mondays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays 3 to 5 p.m. Clients can shop for up to 10 items in the store, including clothes, toys, personal items, diapers and more. The majority of items are donated and sorted by volunteers.
“If you won’t use it at home, we won’t give to neighbors,” Butsch said, referring to the quality of items that are donated.
The Free Store currently needs many personal care items, such as deodorant and shampoo.
“A lot of clothes (are donated), but we need all the small things,” Butsch said.
Kathy Gadomski has volunteered at the Free Store for 12 years, performing a variety of jobs, but mostly works the checkout in the store.
“I like the interactions with people,” said Gadomski. “This is a community to them.”
“They come with the weight of the world, and sometimes they just want to talk to Kathy,” Butsch said.
Bobbie, a long-time client of the Free Store, has been coming since it first opened on the Westside.
“They help me with things the kids can use, someone to talk to,” Bobbie said.
Zach Brittenham has volunteered at the Free Store through City Campus Church for six months. He says this is a partnership they’d love to see grow.
“I love just getting a meal, sitting down and saying ‘How’s it going?’,” Brittenham said. “They want to be valued, to be seen.”