Mission for Help

Strasburg store caters to customers in need

By Katie Demeria

STRASBURG — The volunteers at Lydia’s Clothes Basket once helped two sisters sort through donations and find items that belonged to their late mother.

They also regularly see families in need enter the shop, watching children eager to pick out items that their parents would not otherwise be able to afford.

Nancy Balavage, chair of the board of directors, said the experience is “heartwarming.”

“It’s very touching,” she said.

The store is a mission outreach of the Strasburg United Methodist Church. Balavage said the idea was conceived during a Bible study class, when someone asked what the church could do to give back to the community.

It took two years to find their current space at 175 East King St., she said. Officially opening in May of 2013, in January of this year they expanded into the building next door, allowing them to increase the number of items they carry at one time.

According to Balavage, the expansion was much needed.

“We’ve never been short donations,” Balavage said, indicating a heaping pile of clothes that volunteers were sorting.

Prices, she said, are very reasonable. Pants and shirts usually go for around $3, while higher end items like suits go for $5. Baby clothes are priced at $1.

The clothes are priced as low as they can be, Balavage said. The goal is not to turn a profit, but rather to survive: they want to meet the basic expenses required on a monthly basis, including rent, so they can continue to operate.

“We have plenty of customers,” Balavage said. “And four times a year we invite customers at the food bank to come, and they shop for free.”

The store has about 20 volunteers, without any paid employees. Kay Evans of Strasburg is a regular volunteer, along with her husband.

“We have a great time, and it’s just a good feeling being here,” she said. “It’s a happy feeling.”

Many of their customers are local, Balavage said, but some come from as far away as Mount Jackson or Edinburg. She said the closest low-price thrift shop is located in Woodstock, which can be quite a drive for some of their customers.

Those shopping in the store, Balavage pointed out, are usually down on their luck due to the economy.

“There’s a lot of unemployment in this area,” she said. “And based on the business that the food pantry gets — we think we’re providing a service.”

They also get referrals from social services and emergency relief funds — none of those customers are charged when they shop.

Lydia’s Clothes Basket has a good relationship with many food banks and other charitable organizations. They get so many donations, with an average of about 20 bags a week, that they oftentimes give them to other places. Many baby clothes go to the Pregnancy Center in Edinburg, she said.

The store also has a policy of putting only items that the volunteers would purchase themselves on the shelves.

“People should be able to afford nice things,” Balavage said.

The store is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com