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The ISCU "Store"

By Janice Jayes

If you snake through the basement of the CU Public Health building, past crates of diapers, retired dental chairs and books on their way to a second life on some child’s shelf, you will get to the ISCU warehouse. Stacks of clean mattresses, bins of carefully packaged bedding, kitchenware, dressers--the “Store” is a transit point for donations, linking together households across economic and cultural divides.

Many of us furnished first apartments from garage sales or with the sofa that didn’t fit in our friend’s U-Haul, but it is quite different to have no car to visit garage sales, no friends with sofas, and a paycheck that barely covers food, let alone the pots to cook it in. This is where the “Store” comes in: we hear about a family’s needs, load up the ISCU van, and make the delivery. In practice, the process is much less straightforward and involves many trips as trust builds. For example, a new contact might come from a school inquiry about blankets for a student’s home, or a woman picking up beans from the food bank might ask about how to find a large pot to cook them in. Meeting these simple requests leads to discussions about sufficient sleeping spots for household members, or where children do their homework, or whether having a decent stroller would help them carry the baby and the food the mile home from the store.

Helping with household goods isn’t usually seen in the same critical category as providing access to health care, food security or rental assistance, but sometimes having a bright tablecloth and dishes, or sheets in a child’s favorite color, or even a mattress that wasn’t scavenged from an alley can improve everyone’s mood and ability to deal with the other stresses of life. Having a couch literally gives people a place to relax together. Having enough chairs and a kitchen table allows everyone to eat together rather than in shifts. It also gives children a place to do homework. ISCU has been able to help some families with washers, giving children hours for play that they would otherwise have had to spend with a parent at the laundromat. Dressers and shelves make close-quarters less tense by providing space to accommodate things. A bedside lamp allows a child to read in bed without complaints from the siblings who share the room.

The Store generates no profit, but it does have a return on its investment in the community. People we have helped reach out later with questions about school or housing, and then share what they learn with others. They alert us to unmet needs and volunteer their own labor. One favorite memory from this past year was a young mother we had helped who called to ask if I could pick up a box from her house. It was full of beautifully cleaned and folded baby clothes she asked me to pass on to someone else who might need them.

Though the Store doesn’t make money, it requires money and a continuous supply of household goods to keep it up and running. From July to September of this year, we incurred $6,000 in expenses, which covered the cost of items purchased for the store such as pillows, blankets and mattress pads, as well as hourly wages for our delivery drivers and unexpected maintenance on the van. We anticipate needing approximately $9,000 more to cover costs associated with the warehouse through June 30, 2022. To continue serving families, we need donations of both money and household goods. To see our list of urgently needed items, click here.

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