MOUNT VERNON — Interchurch Social Services is moving two of its facilities from old buildings into one new, modern building at 306 W. Gambier St.
This week, its Clothes-n-Counters thrift store at 15 E. Vine St. moved to the new building, the site of the former Rivers Edge Hunting & Fishing store, which was destroyed by fire in January 2008.
Joy Harris, executive director of ISS, said she and the office staff at 114 E. Gambier will move to the new building at the end of March. The ISS food pantry, housed in the basement of the old building, will be moved the week of April 6.
At the former Clothes-n-Counters store, now almost empty, longtime volunteer Jeannette Cochran waited for one last truck to pull up at the alley door and load the last boxes.
Cochran, who drives in from Homer every Monday to work, said she’s thankful not to have to navigate stairs any longer. In the new building, all of the rooms and offices are on one floor.
“Having everything on one floor will be much better for all of us,” she said, indicating the steep stairs to the basement and a second, smaller stairway in the old building. “I don’t go down there except once in a while. We have several older people working here, so now we won’t have to go down stairs.
“I just hope people don’t forget about us after we move, that they still come by the store,” she said. “The only concern I have about the new building is that there’s no storage space like we have here, in the basement, where we can store winter things in summer, and summer things in winter. But the new building is very nice.”
Many ISS volunteers helped pack up the store’s inventory and move it to the new building, aided by young people with strong backs who helped on behalf of their schools, churches and organizations. Volunteers and manager Joann Payne plan to re-open Clothes-n-Counters in the new location on Monday.
Receptionist Shirley Slaughter said she and the other ISS staff are happy with the new building.
“We’re all excited,” she said. “It has nice windows and so much light. It’s so bright and cheery in there.”
Harris and ISS administrative assistant Linda Robinson watched as a group of men unloaded frozen and packaged food from a Mid-Ohio Food Bank truck to stock the new building’s brand-new commercial freezers, refrigerators and shelves for the first time. Many of the men, Harris said, have been volunteering, unloading trucks and driving food to ISS branches in Fredericktown and Danville for more than 20 years.
The Mid-Ohio supplies help stock the ISS pantry — along with donations from the public — and the food is given to clients in need.
“If you’ve been to the other place [on East Gambier], you know our pantry is in the basement,” said Harris. “We had to carry groceries down the stairs, pack them for clients, then carry them up again. This will be so much better. And the thing I’m most excited about is that now we can become a customer-choice pantry. Rather than pre-packing bags that will be given to people, we can now give them choices. They get a cart and shop for what they need and want, what their families will eat. Customer choice also saves money.”
The East Gambier building is for sale. The West Gambier land and the shell of the building were sold to ISS by Gary Gray, owner of Rivers Edge.
“For the last 10 years, our board has been looking for a new building,” said Harris. “We just sort of fell into this one, and it’s a real blessing.”
Funds to purchase the new building, Harris said, came from the sale of the 15 E. Vine St. building to The Main Place.
Funding for the new freezers and refrigerators was raised by Food for the Hungry three years ago, said Harris.
“They raised it for their 25th anniversary. They’ve been holding it until we were ready. That money also bought a new freezer for the Centerburg Interchurch and a new refrigerator for the Fredericktown ISS,” she said.
Funds to finish the building’s interior were raised during last year’s ISS fundraising campaign.
As she gave visitors a tour of the building, Robinson said, “This has been our goal. We’ve been looking and looking [for a building]. This is so awesome here. We’re all together on one floor. I think we’ll run more efficiently, too.”
The new building also has a meeting room, staff offices, a kitchen, utility room and restrooms. Clothes-n-Counters hours will remain 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. A public open house is planned for May.