You think you know a building after working in it for a year or two. Then you run into someone such as Marie Young, a 16-year volunteer, and you realize that you don’t know the place as well as you thought. Because of Marie’s long tenure, we invited her to share her memories about the physical transformation of rooms and the expansion of buildings at The Caring Place. Each room and building has a distinct history and in each case, that history is rooted in the astounding growth experienced by The Caring Place over the past 30 plus years.
Take the fabric department where Marie has worked for several years. It had its humble beginnings in a space less than the size of a card table in a high foot-traffic area, in what used to be the main building at 2001 Railroad. One volunteer measured and priced donated fabric in the same room with clothing, linens and books. “We had outgrown our space; donations filled the back parking lot from the back door to the street and often had to be left uncovered overnight and on weekends,” Marie says.
The building housed everything from donated clothing, furniture, appliances, mattresses, household goods and the few faithful volunteers who sorted and priced them. The Client Services department, Food Pantry and pantry storage were also located in this building. Shipping containers without heat or A/C were added behind the building for processing shoes, handbags and toys. Oftentimes, the sales area was “expanded” to the front parking lot for large items.
In 2004, The Caring Place constructed a much larger facility across the street at 2000 Railroad Avenue. Donations increased at an amazing rate and within a year an expansion for the sales area was in progress. In time, The Boutique was added for finer clothing, then Re-Finds for antiques and collectibles, and Outdoors and More was created for items such as garden accessories and landscaping tools. “We became The Shops at The Caring Place,” Marie says.
In addition to increased donations, the number of people coming to The Caring Place for assistance also increased. “The more we expanded, the more we grew out of space,” Marie said. As part of the 2011 expansion, the nonprofit found it necessary to build a second floor in order to provide adequate space for the Client Services department and added a wing for the Food Pantry and Administration.
Marie has seen significant growth at The Caring Place. She vividly recalls her first visit nearly 17 years ago in that small building at 2001 Railroad Avenue when she came with a church group that was volunteering for the day. “The Caring Place got in my blood,” Marie said. The next thing you know, Marie was a full-fledged regular volunteer at The Caring Place. Over the years, she has served the organization as a volunteer, assistant store director, store manager and board member. She continues to volunteer in the fabric department and is now assisting with the selection of merchandise in our newly opened second thrift store, Second Helping.
Because the number of people seeking services from The Caring Place continues to grow, and the search for storage space is an ongoing challenge, The Caring Place is once again evaluating the best use and availability of space. In addition to opening Second Helping, it will relocate its Client Services department to the (previously remodeled) Annex across the street in order to meet the space needs for serving a growing community. As The Caring Place completes this remodel, new histories will be created, room by room.