Losses from the thrift store – about $100,000 – represent more than a quarter of the Salvation Army’s budget for food security initiatives, according to executive director Tony Brushett.
He said demand for those services, which include a year-round food bank and Christmas hampers, has nearly doubled since residents returned from a citywide evacuation.
“For us it’s going to be a big struggle to get through the winter,” Brushett said. “I don’t want people to worry. If they need services, we will get it to them. But we need to strategize here on how we can build up the funds again.”
Brushett said the food bank now serves 50 to 60 families, compared to between 30 and 40 prior to the evacuation. He said 750 families are awaiting Christmas hampers.
“We tried to talk to some of the families who are coming in who are new. They said they were just barely making it before the evacuation, and losing three, four, five weeks’ income was the difference for them,” Brushett said. “Now they’ve become regular food bank users.”
To qualify to access the services, people must earn below a certain income. Many are families and Brushett said the majority rely on government assistance or are retired with low pensions.
In addition to the loss in sales, Brushett said all of the items previously stocked at the Thrift Store had to be thrown away due to the risk of contamination from flooding. He said the store will reopen with goods that have been donated in the last three months.
While the store was closed, staff worked to process and clean new donations. With no income, Brushett said salaries add on to the losses.
The Salvation Army is now looking to its upcoming Christmas kettle campaign, which launches November 23, as a way to bounce back financially.
Last year, the campaign amassed $45,000 in donations for food security initiatives. This year, Brushett said that won’t be enough.
He said in 2022, the organization spent almost $50,000 on food for Christmas. This year, he estimates it will spend more like $65,000 based on the larger number of people using the Salvation Army’s services.
“We’ll find a way to make sure nobody going without,” Brushett said. “I find that the people are very giving here.”