A few months ago, Denise Currie thought her store with free items for people with low incomes, The Giving Closet, would close by Christmas. But after media outlets, including The Columbian, shared her plight, the donations came flooding in from community members.
Now, Currie says the store will stay open until at least March and likely beyond.
“I can actually breathe,” she said. “We’ve been saved.”
The store’s financial troubles began after a series of hardships earlier this year. A large private donor of the nonprofit decided to invest in a new ministry. A 10-year commitment from a business sunsetted. An online fundraiser for the nonprofit raised a fraction of the money it usually did. Lastly, the store was declined a grant it desperately needed.
But a wave of donations, mostly from individuals, has kept the store afloat longer than expected, Currie said.
“I can’t stress enough how much our community has been so generous,” Currie said. “We’re very, very thankful.”
Jody Allworth, who has volunteered at The Giving Closet since it opened 23 years ago, is especially glad the store will remain open for the winter. This is the time of year when people need warm clothes, and parents can get toys to give as gifts for the holidays, she said.
“Christmastime is really hard on a lot of the people that come to the closet, and if we can do things to help make it easier or make it joyful for them and their kids during this time, it just makes you feel good,” she said.
Currie said she’s grateful her paid staff won’t be out of a job and that her volunteers can continue their work.
More families than usual have been making appointments to shop at The Giving Closet and to receive food from the Clark County Food Bank stocked at the store.
Volunteer Bonnie Harvey has noticed the increase.
“It gets busier when it gets colder. A lot of people just have a lot more need,” Harvey said.
On Dec. 18, some of The Giving Closet’s shoppers will be able to bring their children to an event where they can pick out toys for Christmas.
“A lot of these families that are lower income can still give their kids a really nice holiday with new items,” Harvey said.
Allworth said she’s grateful the community came together to help save the store. She remembers a sinking feeling watching people shopping when the store was expecting to close soon.
“I would look at them and think, ‘What are they going to do without us?’ We not only meet their basic needs of food and clothing, but we provide social emotional support. … It breaks your heart to think about them not having that in their lives anymore.”
With the store secure for a few months longer than expected, Currie is hopeful about the future.
“That gives us time going into next year to develop some new strategies for fundraisers and to apply for some grants. It definitely has helped us out a lot,” she said.
This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.