Ann Richardson has managed the Lifebridge Thrift Store for six years. In that time she’s worked with volunteers tirelessly to improve the lives of the homeless.
Richardson is one of only two paid employees at the store, along with Patrice Khouri. She relies on people like her sister Kathleen McMath, Judy Dolan and Elena Lazzaro to accomplish the many tasks required to run the operation.
The store, which is moving to 47 Canal Street, will re-open April 2. Richardson said that the store is a fixture of Salem.
“We are very Salem community-based because we serve the people of Salem,” she said. “The store is a great asset. One hundred per cent of the proceeds go toward helping Lifebridge homeless.”
Lifebridge is a Salem-based shelter organization. It has 22 units of housing and 34 emergency shelter beds.
Richardson said that everything in the store is a donation, even the counters. Right now she’s seeking building materials, paint and racks as they re-build the store from the ground up. People also drop off furniture, household goods and clothing, which is sorted in a separate room. All donations are tax-deductible.
Formerly at St. Mary’s Church on Margin Street, the store was looking for space for four years after it outgrew its previous location.
Gateways to Peace was at 47 Canal Street, and when Gateways of Peace to the Nations Apostolic Ministries bought St. Mary’s Church the store leadership chose to rent the building.
“This space is wonderful,” Richardson said. “One of the things we were so excited about is this space lends opportunities for programs for people at the shelter. At the church we just didn’t have space.”
Richardson said residents of the shelter will often work at the store, refurbishing and moving furniture, also working in retail. This gives them experience they can put on a resume.
“The programs are very important to me,” she said. “We are an organization geared toward helping people find homes and go on to live independently again.”
Richardson said she has great communication with the shelter in terms of who would work best in the retail store environment.
The store even runs a literature class in cooperation with Salem State University.
Because of the economy and the recycling trend, Richardson says thrift stores are in right now.
“It’s a win-win situation,” she said. “You come in, donate and shop. I am amazed at what people will buy.”
For the re-opening, Richardson said she has received a great deal of support from the Salem and surrounding community. She said they started the move two weeks ago and had the place cleaned and painted in record time.
“A lot of people have been wonderful to us,” she said. “It’s amazing the generosity that’s out there.”
Donations are being accepted while the store is preparing to re-open. You can visit the store's Facebook page here.