COVINGTON -- It's been a tough year economically for just about everyone, but it's even tougher for those who regularly struggle with choosing between paying the electric bill or buying groceries. Those are the people the folks at Repairers of the Breach intend to help this holiday season.
"We're in a terrible time. A lot of people are in denial, but if they could see the people that I see and Tonya (Langford, store manager) sees every day, they'd know we are in a bad time. These are people who have never had to ask for help that are asking for help," said Executive Director Shirley Smith. "We've seen very much of an increase this year. We have a stream of people coming in every day, needing clothing or they've been put out of their home and they've lost everything. It's so sad. Some of them have even donated here to help other people and now they're having to ask for help, and those are the people we want to help."
The organization is celebrating its 20th year of helping those who need assistance throughout the year and during the holidays, as well as offering low prices on items in their thrift store throughout the year. They are still collecting donations of food, including turkeys, turkey breasts and hams and other traditional fare for Thanksgiving. They will give baskets containing the preparations for a Thanksgiving meal to a list of the needy and elderly.
The economic downturn has affected their financial donations, but at the same time it's driven more people to ask for help. They expect a record number of requests for help at Christmas when they give new toys to children and allow the youngsters and their families to shop in the thrift store for free.
"The first day we began signing up for Christmas, we had 75 and we'll be taking requests until the end of November," Smith said. "We usually are able to help around 300 and we just pray that we can do that this year."
Smith said the free shopping in the thrift store is a popular feature of their Christmas program.
"We have a bunch of stuff going out of here. It's getting pretty well stocked for them to come in, too. We're running over, but I'm thankful for that and the people of this community who have worked with us through the year and have been tremendous in helping us to give to these people," Smith said.
They are accepting donations of new toys suitable for youngsters up to age 13 at the store located at 5120 Old Brown Bridge Road, at the intersection with Washington Street. They plan to help a few teens, but their main focus will be for the younger children.
And while toys are popular requests, things that many take for granted are needed, as well. One of the biggest shortages they see for needy families is beds for their children to sleep in.
Smith recalled the story of a young boy about 7 or 8 years old who wanted a bed that was in the store and a novice volunteer told him he couldn't have it. When he left the store crying, Smith asked what the problem was and the volunteer told her she had told him he couldn't have the bed.
"I told her, oh no, there's nothing they can't have. I went and caught that little boy and he still had big old tears on his face. I said, 'You know what? Santa Claus has left you a bed.' He stopped crying and the biggest smile crossed his face," Smith recalled with a chuckle. "His mother said he was sleeping on the floor."
"There's so many people like that that don't have beds," Langford said. "That's one of the main things we need."
She also pointed out that the elderly are always a big emphasis for the organization.
"We also have a lot of elderly people who apply for the food and clothes, and we want to help them also through the holidays," she said. "We have a lot of elderly on Tuesdays when we have 25 percent off and they look forward to coming here and getting their senior citizen discount. That's the only time they can buy is when they're getting a sale at a thrift shop. They can't go to Belk to purchase their clothes. They have to come here, so when people donate nice items, it helps the elderly, too."
The thrift store has expanded to take in 11,000 square feet of merchandise space, and Smith said it is better organized now that they have the extra space. The store is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 to 5:30 and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All donations can be made at the store.
"The more we give away, the more it comes back," said Langford. She recalled that during the Hurricane Katrina emergency, she drove to Mississippi with relief items, which were accepted, but she was also given things to bring back to the store in Georgia. "We came back loaded down with as much as we took," she said with a laugh.
For more information on how to help this holiday season, call 770-787-7250.