Nonprofit faces possible closure if they can’t find a new location

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PORT BYRON, Illinois -- Workers with a nonprofit serving the Riverdale School District said their store was potentially facing closure after they found out their lease would not be renewed.

Ann McCarrell opened "Ann's Helping Hands" in the 1990s, after seeing a need in the school district she worked at.

"I was school nurse," she said, "we started out giving Thanksgiving food baskets, then Christmas baskets with toys, and Easter baskets and back to school supplies and this grew out of it."

Related: Pay It Forward: Ann’s Helping Hands

They consider themselves a mission store. Offering basic necessities to families in exchange for a donation. They also step in when people find themselves in a troubling situation, like after a house fire or starting over after an abusive relationship.  In those cases, customers get whatever they need for free.

"It's a mission store first," said McCarrell.

In the 20 years the shop's been in business, they've moved nine times, most recently settling at the city limits of Port Byron on Route 84.

McCarrell said "it's been nice" because they're easy to find.  But their nine years in that facility hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows.

"Some of the people think it looks trashy and that's not the first thing they should see when they come into Port Byron," she said.

"It does get a little bit cluttered with our higher donation times," said volunteer Tina Vanquakebeke.

Related: Port Byron thrift shop targeted as ‘ugly’ in letter

After nearly a decade in that spot, they found out their lease would not be renewed.

"If we close it's going to be heartbreaking to a lot of people," said Vanquakebeke.  "We need the community to step up and say they're not going to let the people that need help in their community to go without."

As they search for a new location, workers hope they can continue serving the same community.

"I'm adamant about the Rverdale School District, which is what it started for," said McCarrell.

If they can't find a new location, they'll have to close, according to McCarrell.  February 28th will be their last day.  Before that, they're going to start cleaning out their inventory.  In January and February they're going to offer a $1 bag sale, meaning customers can fill a grocery bag with items for a $1 price tag. And in December the store will stop accepting donated items.

As "Ann's Helping Hands" packs up and looks at the options, they're holding fundraisers to help find a new facility.

On Tuesday, August 14th from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. there will be a benefit night at "Your Pie" in Davenport.  They're also asking supporters to fill out a "Helping Hands Building Fund Pledge Card" for people wanting to make financial donations.

Click here to download a pledge card.

Click here to follow the store's journey on Facebook.

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