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New life for Hillsville thrift store?

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — The thrift store in the old Bassett Walker building supports the New Life Ministry’s food bank, but Brother Leon Goad could see the warehouse space serving another purpose in the future.

Feeding the more than 400 people who come to the food bank each month since the severe downturn in the national economy is important work, but Goad would also like to see the building used to create jobs again.

Nobody’s being spared by what has been termed a national recession.

Goad said those who still have jobs likely have a friend or family member who is out of work in these difficult times.

It’s significant that Goad, who’s been involved in the ministry in Hillsville since 1986, calls this the worst he’s seen. “We still serve masses of people who come through our door. Because of layoffs and people out of work, it’s probably the heaviest that it’s been.”

The ministry has refocused what was once a much larger network on the local food needs.

The church’s headquarters in the old Bassett Walker warehouse — a remnant of a time when textiles were a dominant industry in Hillsville and the South, before consolidation and overseas outsourcing — used to hold boxes of food to be distributed.

Now it holds tables with stacks of dishware, glassware, books laying face up, toasters, coffee pots, decorative items, lamps, racks of clothes, furniture on display and various and sundry other things.

There’s a notable “cave effect” as Goad calls it in the thrift store space, as the interior probably remained in the 50-degree range early Thursday morning before he fired up the heaters. To protect the net proceeds for the food bank, Goad will keep the space relatively cool in winter so he doesn’t have to spend too much on heating fuel.

The thrift store, open Thursday through Saturday, and the associated Tuesday evening auctions basically serve as fundraisers for the non-profit ministry, Goad said.

And, the food bank has found lots of supporters in the community. Corporate supporters include long-time partner Kroger, and the local Clark Oil convenience stores contribute what they can spare for the food program.

It’s not as much of a donation as a grocery store, but Goad says the convenience stores provide “a good bit” of food, maybe a pickup truck load at a time.

Super Dollar provides volume discounts, and New Life gets all its canned food there.

“The other thing it has done, it has stimulated a lot of people to get involved and help,” Goad said.

The food bank depends on volunteers to sort and display the merchandise, people make donations and auctioneers like David Young and Fred Rassford, who drives all the way from West Jefferson, N.C., to help, donate their services so the program can benefit as much as possible.

Then there are the people who come into the thrift store and buy carts worth of stuff and turn around and donate the merchandise for the auction, Goad said. That raises the net proceeds for the food bank, he noted.

Others will come in and buy items like a toaster or an iron to give it directly to people that need help, he added.

The thrift store arose from an idea last year to have sales in the warehouse space, particularly during the Labor Day Flea Market, but Goad can see the building being put to other uses.

He’s in favor of the place being turned into a new business that would create jobs and benefit the area.

“We’re trying to turn it back into a vital business,” Goad said. “We do not have a permanent plan to keep a thrift store here. If there’s somebody that comes in here tomorrow that could put people to work, the building is available. It would take 30 days of auctions to empty the building.”

Carroll County officials have toured the building to see if it could be used as a headquarters for a new business, Goad said. So far those efforts have fallen through.

He knows of no specific business prospect but holds out the hope that the space might eventually be used in the creation of 50 or so jobs.

“We’re hoping some prospects of the county... will be positive,” Goad said.

Officials have visited and asked if the building is available to rent or sell.

“Yes, if it will put people to work,” Goad says.