BANGOR, Maine — In hopes of reopening a shelter for homeless mothers and their children, Manna Ministries is opening a thrift shop to fund the program.
Manna opened Ann’s House two years ago inside its Main Street headquarters with the promise that state and local funding would become available to help the shelter continue to operate, according to Manna Executive Director Bill Rae. That funding never surfaced, Rae said Friday during an interview inside the shop.
“We can’t keep relying on what Augusta’s not doing,” Rae said.
Ann’s House can accommodate four mothers and up to 12 children at any given time, and it costs about $1,800 per week to operate, according to Rae. It shut its doors temporarily last month while Manna tried to find ways of covering operation costs.
Sherry Molcan, who has worked as a program director at Manna for the past three years, came up with the idea of starting a thrift shop to provide a new revenue stream that will keep the shelter open. Manna takes in bags and boxes of used items every week, including clothes, shoes, lamps and children’s toys.
The Home Thrift Store, located in a former flooring and carpeting retail and warehouse space on Hillside Avenue behind the Broadway Rite Aid, will open Nov. 4, according to Rae.
Before deciding to open the store, Manna gave donated items that weren’t distributed to homeless or low-income locals to other thrift stores in the area to sell.
Now, Manna will keep those extra items and display them for sale in the store.
Manna hopes to bring in at least $1,200-$1,500 per week through its thrift shop to get Ann’s House operating again. Manna also will continue to accept donations for its programs.
Molcan and other Manna staff are in the process of sorting through thousands of items stored in the shop’s warehouse. They are getting rid of ratty, stained clothing and hanging the quality items on racks or storing them for the future. Hundreds of banana boxes and trash bags filled with items are being organized in preparation for opening. The store’s attached warehouse will have a workshop where Manna can repair damaged furniture so it can be sold, Rae said.
“We have never ceased to be amazed at the amount of stuff that comes in,” he said.
The store wants to provide “good items at a good price,” according to Rae.
The shop also will serve as a training venue for mothers staying in Ann’s House who need to develop work experience and obtain a good reference for future jobs. Rae said they could be hired to help run the registers and help out in the store, building a work history that might get them into another retail job as they try to transition out of the shelter.
The Home Thrift Store building, which had been vacant for about three years, was in poor condition when Manna took it over two months ago, according to Rae. There was evidence of past trespassers scattered throughout the building. People broke in and used it as a place to sleep, drink and take drugs.
“It was a dump,” Rae said.
As part of a lease agreement, Manna agreed to rehabilitate the building and pay about $1,500 per month in rent. Manna will have the option of purchasing the property in the future.
Manna has spent the past three months cleaning up, removing junk, painting, fixing the ceiling and preparing the store. Newspapers still cover the windows but will be removed when the store opens next month.
Donations of any kind may be dropped off at Manna Ministries on Main Street or at the thrift store after it opens in November, but items should be in good condition, Rae said.
“It’s an unusual looking thrift store, and that’s a good thing,” Rae said.