Area thrift stores, shelters affected by unusually cold winter

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Subzero temperatures this winter have made it tough for secondhand stores and homeless shelters in Lansing, not because of a greater demand for their services but because volunteers hesitated to venture out to donate their belongings or their time.


Donations lacking

Debra Kelly, the assistant manager at Hidden Treasures Thrift Store, said that the store’s goal is to “be real and resourceful and meet all the needs” regardless of the season.

“Whether it’s the winter or summer, there are so many in need,” she said.  “The demand is much greater than the supply.”

Kelly said that the cold winter significantly limited donations compared to what the store normally receives at this point in the year.

“The cold has kept people kind of in a slumber,” she said.  “The ice storms, the winter, the cold weather – it’s the same for most of the surrounding retail in the community.”

This is certainly true for Upscale Thrift, a secondhand store operated through the City Rescue Mission, according to employee Hannah Hall.

“I think that the cold weather and the amount of snow on the roads definitely affected business,” Hall said.

Because Upscale Thrift just opened in May, the store does not have any records to compare this winter’s sales to, Hall said.  However, “we definitely saw a decrease in donations in the cold months – January, February we were pretty low on donations,” she said.

According to Hall, Upscale Thrift expects to see an increase in donations into the spring and summer.  “That’s what we saw last year when we first opened in the spring months, because of garage sales and such.”

Extended stays

Shelter manager Sherri S. said that the City Rescue Mission’s women and children’s shelter and men’s shelter “may have been affected in that people stay longer than they normally do.  But generally every winter we have a lot of guests.”

“We’re one of the larger shelters in the area,” she said.  “Are we full? Is there a need? Yes.”

She explained that she thinks it is the harshness of the cold causing guests to stay longer than in the past.  “People who don’t stay as much in the summer are more transient individuals,” who will sleep in their car or outside on their own, she said.

Hall said that she feels Lansing has a large number of homeless people and that it is a growing issue.  “I think it’s more evident in the winter because people are cold and the shelters fill up more.  I definitely think it’s a problem we need to do more about.”

Offering hope

Kelly said that they see the needy turn their lives around “on the daily” with the help of Hidden Treasures’ services, and that it is a very rewarding experience.

“We’re committed to operating from a place of service,” she said.  “It’s compassion, it’s generosity – and it’s actually very humbling to see.  It definitely makes a job not feel so much like a job.  It’s really an honor.”

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