Salvation Army settles into temporary home

By Corene Brisendine

The Salvation Army Thrift Store has found a temporary home at Fourth and Houston while renovations are made to its fire-ravaged building.

In June, a fire broke out inside the store at 313 Poyntz Ave. that destroyed all the store’s merchandise and part of the building. As a result, the Salvation Army had to find a temporary place at 121 S. Fourth St. to house the store and provide services to the community, said Lt. Kirsten Aho, director of the Manhattan Salvation Army Thrift Store.

Aho said she arrived four days after the fire and as a result has been working hard to get the store back up and running though the renovation process. She said she hopes the store will be able to move back into the old store some time next spring. She also said that the building will not only be repaired from the fire, but also improved to bring the building up to code.

For example, Aho said the building has only stairs to the second floor, which violates the handicap accessibility portion of the housing code. As a result, she is working with an architect to add an elevator, widen doorways into the bathrooms and other small issues that are not up to code because when the building was built, those codes did not exist.

She said officials have not yet discussed financing because they are still working on the design, but she hopes the Salvation Army’s corporate offices will help cover the costs for the upgrades if those costs go beyond what the insurance paid for the initial damage. Aho also said they may decide to hold a fundraiser to get the money needed for renovations.

Even though the new location has been up and running since August, some people are having a hard time finding it, said Kasey Miller, thrift store employee.

The temporary location is only about a block from the damaged building — it’s on the south end of the block where the unemployment office is located — but the entrance to the store is around the corner on Houston Street.

Aho said as the holidays quickly approach, the store is seeing more traffic, but it is still lower than when it was on Poyntz.

“People are still coming in,” Aho said. “But it’s nothing like the foot traffic we got in our building.”

Aho said they are also cramped for space in the temporary location. Joey O’Crowley, thrift store employee, said that with the clothes, toys and gifts put back for the Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree, there isn’t much room for them to organize and collect other donations the store receives and stocks on a regular basis. He said that while he is grateful to have the temporary store, he is looking forward to going back to the old store when renovations are completed.

Even though the temporary location is cramped and hard to find, the new location is not all bad, Aho said. She said shortly after she arrived, Aaron Estabrook, a case manager for Supportive Services for Veteran Families, contacted her in hopes of finding an office with the thrift store. She said Estabrook had been running the office out of his home until she agreed to provide office space for him there.

Supportive services is a part of the Salvation Army corporation, but not directly affiliated with the thrift store.

Estabrook said that the thrift store was part of the ministry branch of the Salvation Army and ministered to the general public. He, on the other hand, was part of the social services directed toward retired military members only. He said he helps homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless by providing grant money to help pay rent, utility bills and other home expenses.

Estabrook said that he was happy to share the space with the thrift store because now he could offer better services to the veterans by facilitating better communication between the two branches. Aho said that they plan to provide Estabrook with a permanent office when the renovations are completed in the old building on Poyntz.  She also said she was happy to help centralize the two community services for easier access to everyone in need.

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