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Thrift shop helps area unemployed

Annie Zelm • Oct 22, 2011 at 5:00 AM

People are struggling everywhere, but Ottawa County has been hit particularly hard, carrying the highest unemployment rate in Ohio in recent months.

Food pantry coordinator Marie Berry sees the faces behind those numbers each week at the food pantry she operates in the old Portage School on East State Road in Port Clinton.

The pantry is open only two days a week but serves about 2,000 people per month.

Now the people who come for help — and anyone else in the community — can also meet other needs at the old school building.

For a few dollars, they can buy used clothing, furniture and other household items for their families at the Portage Resale Center, a nonprofit store that opens today.

Shoppers there can save money while helping others at the same time.

Proceeds benefit Ottawa County charities that provide much-needed services, such as United Way and the Salvation Army.

“All our proceeds stay here locally, so it’s really serving the community,” Berry said.

The store rents the building from Truth Ministry Church, which owns it. Local businessman Bob Snyder, who had the vision for the store, said the community’s response has already been overwhelming.

Volunteers sort the donations to make sure they’re in quality condition, then organize them on sales racks in one of several themed rooms. A former classroom with a brightly-painted mural houses baby clothing and children’s toys, while another room features mannequins clad in women’s apparel. Many of the shoes have brand-name labels, but all have the same price tag: $2. Ties are $1, while socks are 50 cents.

“We’ve tried to keep the prices very affordable,” said shop coordinator Mary Coffee, who previously ran a thrift store in Buffalo, N.Y., and helped organize this one. “It’s a very innovative way to give back to our fellow people.”

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