Canton thrift store to benefit local students

By DeeAnna Haney | Oct 29, 2013
Shae Deck, a volunteer with Communities in Schools, puts clothes on the racks at the new Canton thrift store, set to open next Wednesday.

A new thrift store set to open in Canton next week will be giving back almost all of its proceeds to students in Haywood County schools.

An organization called Communities in Schools is renting the old Good Samaritan Clinic building on Academy Street and will work closely with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, which owns the building.

Communities in Schools of the Great Smoky Mountains is an affiliate of the national organization, which works with public schools to provide for the needs of students. Locally, the program serves students in every public school from Haywood County to Cherokee County.

The organization has a site coordinator in every county who assesses the needs in each school and brings that information back to Communities in Schools, which is based in Bryson City.

“We work to bring community resources into the schools and every school has different needs,” said Missy Sutton, administrative assistant for Communities in Schools.

The organization’s site coordinator for Haywood County is Michelle Mull, who is already well aware of the many needs in schools. That’s because she is a social worker at six of them — Bethel Elementary, Bethel Middle, North Canton Elementary, Clyde Elementary, Haywood Early College and the Alternative Learning Center.

After her assessment at North Canton Elementary School, Mull learned that the students needed to improve their reading scores.  After taking that information to Communities in Schools, the organization wrote a grant to purchase several iPads for the school.

The startling number of homeless students in Haywood County, which reached 265 at the end of the last school year, is one of the reasons the organization wanted to locate their thrift store locally. This way, they can more readily help students with immediate needs that don’t have time to wait for grant money to come through.

All proceeds from thrift store sales will go toward the immediate needs of local public school students for anything from toiletry and hygiene products, rent payment, medication, utilities, diapers and more.

The organization also collects school supplies as part of their Build a Backpack program, which allows needy students the chance at a normal school life.

Any time Mull has ever called Communities in Schools for last minute help for a student, they have gone out of their way to make it happen.

“In a moment’s notice they are just a phone call away and by the end of the day I’ve got what I need for a student. I’ve never called and them not be able to help,” Mull said.

Ordinance changes

In order to allow for the opening of the thrift store, a change in the town ordinance was required. After a brief public hearing last week, the Canton board of aldermen, with the exception of Jimmy Flynn, who was not present, voted unanimously to allow the change.

The zoning change comes with a number of restrictions to prevent the “unbridled opening of similar stores, said Town Manager Al Matthews.

A thrift store, consignment shop or food pantry may now be opened in certain residential zones as long as it is operated by a church or nonprofit 501c3 and the proceeds of the operation must benefit the needy.  There may only be one parking space for every 100-square-feet of floor area, which is twice as stringent as a regular business in town, Matthews said.

In addition, stores may only operate between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and may only display one non-illuminated sign.

At the public hearing, Father Tim McRee of St. Andrews Episcopal Church said he is eager to partner with Communities in Schools. The church leased the building to the Good Samaritan Clinic for 11 years until it closed its Canton location last year.

“We greatly regretted it because it was a good partnership,” McRee said.

The church began looking for another appropriate organization to lease the building and was immediately impressed by the programs at Communities in Schools.

“Our vestry was thrilled with the possibility of partnering with this organization to benefit the children in our community. We felt like this was a natural fit to our mission and ministry at St. Andrews Church and we feel like it would be a benefit for our community,” he said.

The church is offering the organization the building rent-free, only asking that they pay for utilities.

The thrift store, located at 112 Academy Street, will be open to the public starting Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other hours are from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Gently used items such as clothing, books, purses, shoes, scarves and toys can be donated to the thrift store during working hours Wednesday through Saturday.

With only one full-time employee, the organization is also seeking volunteers to work at the thrift store throughout the week. For more information about volunteering for Communities in Schools, call 828-488-7505.