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Willing Partners seeks help; could close June 30

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Staff Report
Willing Partners, which has served the community for 20 years, is now in need of help.
The search has continued for many months for the nonprofit to find a suitable permanent home, but that effort has not been successful yet, according to Director Kathy Cooley.
“Willing Partners must have certain amenities to do the work they do. Only in recent days have we been able to make an offer for a vacant building in downtown Galax,” said Cooley. She added, “negotiations are continuing to see if that offer is feasible.”
Twelve local jobs will be lost if Willing Partners closes, she said.
The organization moved to a temporary location (974 East Stuart Drive, on the lower level of Willow Place, underneath the UPS Store) at the end of January, and that move has not been profitable for the agency, Cooley said.
The food bank is operating at the old Sonic Drive-In Building, where the landlord is temporarily donating the rental fees.
Sales from the Willing Partners thrift store make up the majority of revenue for the services they offer to the Twin Counties. They moved to the only suitable spaces that were available at the time, and since then, thrift store sales have dropped drastically, she said. “This move has been devastating to the agency, and attempts to sell the Independence property where we formerly had a second thrift store have failed,” Cooley said.
After a recent emergency meeting, the nonprofit’s board voted to close the thrift store as of June 30 in a last ditch effort to save the organization as a whole and keep the food bank open for now. “The board of directors are in hopes that this is a temporary situation and that the community will rally around [us],” said Cooley. Monetary donations are what’s required to make this effort fruitful, she noted.
“The thrift store was targeted to close because it is the part of the organization that has the most expense,” Cooley said.
Board Chairman Frank Ceary said in a news release that, “We are saddened by having to make this decision, and we are praying for a miracle so we won’t have to close!”
Also lost if they close would be several services, including their USDA food bank, which fed an average of 950 families each month in 2018; the neighborhood pick-up program, in which local businesses add food to Willing Partners’ food pantry; pick-up services for donated items; a free medical equipment loan program for the elderly and injured; and offer various forms of assistance for low-income families and those who have lost their home due to a fire.
Willing Partners receives no government funds and is supported solely through its thrift store sales and monetary donations from the community.
Cooley said the community can help Willing Partners in the following ways:
• contribute at any branch of Skyline National Bank by specifying that you wish to make a donation to the “Willing Partners Relocation Fund;”
• mail your contribution to Willing Partners Inc., 970 East Stuart Drive, Galax, VA   24333;
• drop by the Thrift Store before June 30 and personally deliver your monetary gift and/or shop in the store.
• follow their new Facebook page to find out information as it happens in the upcoming days and weeks (facebook.com/Willing-Partners-Inc-208284699187327/);
• churches, civic groups, etc. are welcome to hold fundraiser events and designate Willing Partners as the beneficiary; or
• if you are a member of a local auxiliary or a church board, etc., brainstorm ways to help and possibly give of your finances with an “emergency gift” now.
“Your support is vitally needed and will be much appreciated,” said Cooley.
For more information, call (276) 233-5416.