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Safe Haven shelter going strong; thrift shop closing

The Safe Haven Shelter for Women and Children is still going strong, with a renewed three-year lease in place, but the shelter's thrift shop is closing due to increased competition.

The Save Haven Thrift Shop, located at 3907 Central Ave. in South Park Shopping Center, actually opened about a year before the shelter, located at 110 High Rise Circle, as a way to raise money and "managed to generate a lot of income," Penny Thornton, vice chairman of the Safe Haven board, said Thursday.

The shelter celebrated its four-year anniversary April 1 and the shop has been open "for about five years," Thornton said, and at the time "there weren't that many thrift shops or resale shops in town" so the shop thrived.

"We were paying at least half of the expenses of the shelter with profits from the store. It was really, really doing well," she said. "But now I understand a lot of thrift shops are hurting.

"The way I have explained it is that there is a pie that is our community and the pie size hasn't changed, but the slices are getting smaller and smaller because there are so many of them."

She also noted several businesses have moved out of South Park "so we're not getting the foot traffic we were before and that's hurt us."

She said about a month ago they realized they were not making enough money to even pay the overhead and the salaries of the two employees, one full-time manager and a part-time assistant manager.

"Several board members chipped in money that month, but we realized we can't keep doing that. If we're not actually at least clearing expenses plus making a little bit it isn't working. We weren't even breaking even."

She said the decision to close down was "a very tearful one," but they didn't have a choice.

The shop currently has a "huge inventory" of items, including men's, women's and children's clothing, household goods and some furniture, all of good quality.

"We had absolutely awesome donors that have given us sometimes brand-new or maybe just worn once (items). A lot of really, really nice stuff," she said.

"Plus, we're going to sell the clothing racks, shelving units, desks, tables, washer and dryer, and other items.

"Everything we put in there is coming out," she said, noting they are having a half-price and under sale of all items "probably through the first week of September."

Thornton also commended the shop's two "awesome employees" and said she and Amy Thomason, Safe Haven board chairman, "promised them we wouldn't just drop them." She said both women were hard workers with "good hearts."

"That's really where my heart is, with these two women. I want to make sure they are utilized," she said, noting she has already received three calls from potential employers, including two other charities.

She also praised the work of the shop's "many unbelievable volunteers" who would steam and clean the clothes and other items. "A lot of times people don't see them because they're usually working in the back."

She said they only sold the best items, and anything that didn't meet their standards would be donated to The Salvation Army, which would bundle them up to send to third-world countries.

"Nothing gets wasted. We have a really good partnership with The Salvation Army."

Thornton stressed "everything is going well" with the shelter, which renewed its lease with the Housing Authority of Hot Springs for the building in February, and Quapaw House, which took over the management duties of the shelter in August 2016, recently renewed its commitment for another year.

"They are very pleased with how things are going. They really needed a transitional facility and it's working for them," she said. "Our whole goal from the beginning is to help (residents) learn how to break the cycle of poverty.

"To get them to take responsibility for themselves and Quapaw is very good at that," she said.

Local on 08/13/2017

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