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Viewpoint: Stone Soup needs some help

We need your help. Basic Needs Inc. of South Washington County is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which owns and operates Stone Soup Thrift Shop. Our mission is “To engage the community in supporting families and individuals by providing access to quality used clothes, household items, and furniture in a convenient, dignified manner.”

Stone Soup provides gently used clothing, household goods, and furniture at no cost to persons in need. We are very grateful for the community’s generous ongoing donations of goods. During 2012, the store gave goods worth $143,134 ($11,928 per month) at no cost to people experiencing financial crisis or homelessness, and to local community service organizations. This year, as of Oct. 9, goods valued at $91,953 had been given at no cost, to help 334 children, 356 adults, 51 seniors, community churches, and agencies. This is 48 percent of our inventory provided to people in need.

We also sell to the general public at very reasonable prices and average over 1,700 customer each month. Sales for 2012 were $123,361, or $10,280 per month. This year by Oct. 9 store sales were $98,503, or $12,150 per month.

Stone Soup’s lower prices allow seniors and families to obtain needed clothing, furniture and household items, thus helping them stretch their budgets. Through recycling of goods we are unable to use, the community benefits by reducing landfill waste and cutting the amount of trash often left by the side of the road.

Stone Soup pays $57,510 in rent each year, plus $8,740 for utilities. Wages for four full-time and four part-time staff are $137,000. Volunteers are a tremendous help so we need to increase our volunteer support.

Anticipated 2013 sales will be about $130,000. This will meet at least 50 percent of our $245,000 budget costs. The balance of expenses must be met through foundation grants, community donations and events. This year our annual fundraising event, “Stone Soup-er Bowl,” brought in $45,000. It was a super success and lots of fun. We plan to hold our sixth annual “Stone Soup-er Bowl” on May 17, 2014.

Since we began in 1997 we’ve added space to manage the increased processing of donations and services. It has allowed us to expand services to people in need, as well as sales to the general public. Due to the increased community use, we needed more staff.

Even with four full-time and four part-time employees, local volunteers, youth and adults who perform community service, the Minnesota WorkForce, Senior Workers Program participants, and Next Step Program, we are still short staffed and always working to find more volunteers.

We anticipate after the receipt of possible grant funds for which we applied,  a projected year-end shortfall of at least $10,000. We considered staff layoffs but realized we would be unable to continue to assist the community in the way it has come to count on from us. We are now asking your help to meet these expenses.

I have outlined our concerns and ask for your consideration of this information. If you would like to help, or have any questions, please contact me at 651-458-9890 or 612-860-1123. If you wish to contribute, all donations are tax deductible. We accept cash, credit cards, checks or money orders. Contributions may be sent or brought to: 950 Third S., Suite 101, St. Paul Park, MN, 55071.

To volunteer, please call the store at 651-458-9786 and speak with Becky or Mary Ann. Store hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Majel Carroll is president of the board that oversees Stone Soup Thrift Shop.