Rising fifth-grader Haley knows what she wants. Accompanied by her mother, she combs the aisles of Crisis Assistance Ministry’s Free Store looking to find just what she needs for her upcoming trip to camp.
An avid reader, Haley is among 150+ area scholars who will attend overnight camp this summer with the help of Wayfinders. The organization pairs students from high-poverty schools with local mentors and provides “opportunities that improve academic achievement and physical activity, expand their social capital, and increase their preparedness for the workforce.” Students in grades 4-12 benefit from year-round enrichment activities and mentoring, in addition to summer camp opportunities.
This will be Haley’s second summer at Gwynn Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains and she can’t wait to get back to the lake, the pool—anything water—and to zip line. Mom Amber is grateful for the opportunity to send two of her four children to camp with Wayfinders’ help. With her retail salary stretched as far as it will go, she’s grateful to visit the Free Store to fill in several needed items from her campers’ shopping list. Haley, especially, has sprouted up a few inches this year and needs quite a few things. Mom is focused on the basics: shorts, a hoodie, flip-flops, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and a bathing suit.
A New Friend With Your Help
Haley smiles and holds things up to be sure they will fit. Then a bin of brand new stuffed animals* catches her eye. She tests out a couple of potential new “friends” with a big squeeze. A soft and snuggly gray bunny almost makes it to her cart. But a hot pink cat wins her heart. She’s the perfect companion for Haley’s summer adventures!
A new pillow for the trip and some fun sunglasses top off her treasures and she’s ready to check out.
Each day up to 60 Mecklenburg County families will visit the Free Store for essentials this summer. Like Haley, they won’t get a bill at the checkout. Instead, they will simply count their items, bag them up, and head back to their lives. That’s because the generosity of our community provides items like summer clothes, household goods, footwear, bedding, and more—all free of charge.
How You Can Help
There are a few ways you can help ensure shoppers find what they need:
- Donate new or gently used clothing and household goods. Donations are received at our convenient Donation Drive-Thru between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.
- Organize a collection drive in your community or place of business. We’ll provide the details, a list of most needed items, etc. You provide the legwork, collect and count items, and arrange to drop them off.
- Volunteer to inspect and prepare donated items for shoppers and/or stock the store. Shifts are available Tuesday through Saturday through our volunteer portal. Individuals and groups ages 11+ are welcome.