Lents ‘Free Store’ celebrates 1st year

See how volunteers are making a positive difference in the Lents neighborhood with their monthly ‘Paying-It-Forward Store’

Setting up their 12th “Paying-It-Forward Store” store in a year, volunteers set up clothing racks and hang up clothing at this unique outer East Portland event in the Lents neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Volunteers with the notion of helping others in need held their first “Paying-It-Forward Store” in the community room at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in November, 2016.

> CLICK HERE to read how this group began.

“We’ve done 12 of them so far this year,” remarked founder Jim Anderson at the November 19 event.

Although they’d originally only planned to put on a couple of clothing distribution events, Founder Jim Anderson says the “free store” has grown into a much-needed service in the area.

“We’ve been doing it every month, but we skipped August because of the hundred-degree heat wave – and made it up by holding two events later, at different locations, in a month,” Anderson told East Portland News.

He and the volunteers started it as a short-time project, Anderson said.

“But then, people kept telling me we needed to keep it going,” Anderson added. “With all the people we see getting help, it has become a valuable resource for so many people here in our community.

“So now, it’s like this is something that has to be here now, and we can’t stop,” Anderson reflected. “If we stop, there will be a lot of people going without.”

Volunteer Ansima Michael prepares clothing for the day’s store.

Over the year, Anderson said that he guesses they’ve helped about 1,100 people by giving away about 16,000 articles of clothing. “And, all of the clothing and shoes that we have here, are in excellent condition. Every single piece of clothing in our shop has been examined by one of our board members.

“If it looks like it’s been ripped, or soiled, it gets discarded,” Anderson noted. “The people who donate understand that we only take better-quality clothing. Our clients deserve it.”

Ready to open for the day, volunteers make a final “check in” with each other.

Their board of directors is up to 12 members now, which helps the “Paying-It-Forward Store” gather and inspect clothing, store it, and then set up displays for the hours it is open.

Helping “fuel” the volunteers, and to provide the board with a meeting place, is Parkrose neighborhood supporter Aaron Wright, owner of Gilhooligans Bar & Grill. “Aaron has been great to us, also helping us with fundraisers, and is helping us try to secure a storefront,” Anderson commended.

Providing warm winter clothing for those in need is the current mission of the “Paying-It-Forward Store”.

Especially as cold weather hits, they’re looking for donations of clean, good quality donations. “Right now we are in desperate need of men’s clothing, especially men’s jackets,” Anderson requested, looking forward to the upcoming December 17 and January 21 “free stores”.

In addition to clothing, they also gratefully accept financial donations to help pay for trucking, storage, and supplies.

To learn more about the “Paying-It-Forward Store”, or to contact the organization, see their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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