Clubs help Salvation Army tackle mountains of merchandise

Frances Apuna, general manager of the Salvation Army Lihu‘e Thrift Store, had mixed feelings on Saturday.

On one hand, she faced

the looming task of trying to sort through three rooms filled to the ceiling with assorted trash bags and boxes of merchandise.

On the other hand, she was grateful that the merchandise was in their back room.

“If it wasn’t here, it could be all in our landfill,” Apuna said.

She and her staff got a boost from an army of volunteers from the Zonta Club of Kaua‘i and the Zonta Club of Hanalei who turned out with their families and friends to help the Thrift Store.

Their mission had a dual edge to it. Following their work at the Thrift Store, representatives of the clubs presented a $10,000 check to Capt. Mitham Clement of the Salvation Army, Lihu‘e Corps from the Friends of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Funds from the Weinberg Foundation grant will be used to benefit the Salvation Army Kokua Soup Kitchens program, according to a press release from Katie Beer of the Zonta Club of Kaua‘i.

The grant will fund food and supplies for the Lihu‘e Corps program and the kitchen at the Salvation Army, Hanapepe Corps.

Currently, the Lihu‘e Corps’ kitchen serves a warm dinner on Tuesdays and a warm lunch on Thursdays while the Hanapepe Corps’ kitchen offers a hot dinner on Mondays.

Clement, who was recovering from a bout with a cold bug, was overwhelmed by the number of volunteers who finished their workday with a complete makeover of the Lihu‘e Thrift Store.

“You should have been here earlier this morning,” Beer said. “All of the clothing racks were bare. We took everything apart and put it all back after going through and working through the merchandise.”

As a group worked to restock shelves and racks with merchandise, another group worked behind the retail front to prepare more merchandise for stocking.

Hartwell Blake, one of the Salvation Army board members who turned out to help at the workday, was joined by Eugene Jimenez in the far back room where they attacked the mountain of incoming merchandise.

“The bags were piled all the way to the ceiling and went out to the wall,” Blake said. “The volunteers definitely made a dent in what needed to be processed.”

Blake said part of the backlog is created because there is not enough help to process the incoming merchandise.

“If we could get some kind of schedule for groups to come in and help as service projects, more of the merchandise could make it out to the floor,” Blake said. “There’s good stuff in here. This morning I found a pair of $150 jeans that still had its pricetag on. And here’s an almost brand-new pair of ladies running shoes. It even has socks in it.”

In addition to the help the Salvation Army got from the Zonta clubs, Apuna said she recently shipped three containers of merchandise to a rehabilitation thrift shop on O‘ahu, but that was only a temporary solution to the backlog of incoming goods.

“They loved our stuff,” Apuna said. “We also shipped them 200 king-sized beds and they loved that, too.”

But shipping items inter-island is getting to be a costly proposition, given the rising cost of fuel.

“We shipped everything collect,” Blake said. “But it’s still expensive.”

Jimenez, who along with Apuna was going to take a break at noon to attend the Operation Military Appreciation recognition ceremonies, said he found a leather jacket from Harrah’s.

“I go there, so might as well add it to my pile,” he said.

During the makeover, which involved more than three dozen volunteers, the Thrift Store remained closed much to the disappointment of customers who peered in from outside the locked glass doors.

The Zonta release states that a big sale, which included 50 percent off all clothing and 25 percent off everything else, rewarded Thrift Store customers for their patience during the makeover.

Kukui‘ula Development Company provided lunch for all the volunteers.

“The good thing about all of this is that it’s that much less that is going into our landfill,” Blake said.

Clement said there will be more sales events at the Thrift Store in the near future.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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