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BG Salvation Army closes doors

The BG News has learned that the Salvation Army thrift store on East Main Street will close at the end of February after choosing to not renew the lease on their building, according to a store employee, who wished to remain anonymous, and a volunteer at the store, Ben Sherwood.

The employee requested anonymity because the Salvation Army had barred their workers from publicly speaking about the situation until it was officially announced. The closing was confirmed by the Salvation Army’s Cpt. Diane McElwee, director of Programming and Rehab Services.

The decision to close was made after the store hadn’t made money in six years, she said.

She directed other questions to her husband, Cpt. Harry McElwee, administrator and minister for Salvation Army Adult Rehab Center, but he declined to comment.

February 25 will be the store’s last open day. The employee did not know why the Salvation Army was letting the lease expire, but said that it would on March 1.

“I was pretty upset, just because now I have to look for another job,” the employee said.

For customers in the store yesterday, it was the first time they had heard news of the closing, and many reacted with surprise, shock, and sadness.

“With the way things are these days, these are the first spots I hit when I need anything,” said Teresa Clark, 44, of Perrysburg, who said she usually comes to the store at least once a week.

“I have grandkids, I always look for toys, cheap toys,” she said. “I mean, you can’t beat the prices on that stuff.”

The employee said no new shipments of items will come to the store, but a sale was being planned for after the official announcement was made. Any remaining stock would eventually be redistributed to area Salvation Army stores.

Clark carried a videotape and place mats as she spoke, saying the rising cost of food and other living needs, as well as the layoff of her husband, had made shopping at thrift stores like the Salvation Army more economical.

With hard times for herself and others, she expressed disappointment with the decision to close.

“They don’t give people with not very much money a place to shop,” she said. “Stores’ prices keep going up.”

“You have to stretch and these are about the only places you can come to do that,” she said.

Pam Seiler of North Baltimore, who described herself as “almost 60,” agreed.

“I felt sad,” she said, “this is a nice thing for the community [and] for people on a limited budget to buy items that they need.”

Seiler said she would come in around once a week to look for old furniture to refinish. “I have a lot of friends that like collecting neat things and some of them will buy things and sell them on eBay as a hobby.”

Rhonda Lackey, 29, of Cygnet, said there were always enough people in the store to convince her that it was economically stable.

She said it was “very surprising” that the store was closing, “especially in a college town where I think this is needed.”

The employee and volunteer said they first heard the news within the last two weeks. The employee said the information was scheduled to be made public in the Toledo Blade sometime next week, but knew of no plans to publish the information in The BG News or Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune newspapers.

No Salvation Army officers or Blade staff members were willing or able to confirm this.

“It’s more upsetting that they’re withholding the information so soon” to the closing, the employee said.

The employee said there was a possibility to find a new location for the store, but that the Salvation Army’s officers were not looking “too seriously right now” for one.

“I’m pretty upset about that,” the employee said, “it is a very good thing for the community.”

“Hopefully they’ll find another spot soon.”

Diane McElwee said that the Salvation Army looked “extensively” for another location, but couldn’t find one. She said they have no plans to continue the search in the near future.

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