Donations up, helpers down for Kiowa County Care & Share store

Hannah Brown
Kiowa County Signal
Farrell Allison, on the tractor, and Rod Hesser, watching from outside, along with Harry Koehn looking out from inside, donate labor to load donated items at the Kiowa County Care and Share store in Greensburg.

The Kiowa County Care & Share store in Greensburg was closed for three months due to COVID-19 restrictions this year.

Jo Ross, president of the Care & Share board under the direction of the Kiowa County Ministerial Alliance, said it was likely that people had more time at home with canceled events, which led to an uptick in donations. However, also because of COVID-19, the number of helpers to process the increased inventory has fallen.

For example, Ross said the community thrift store normally has 12-18 pairs of men’s jeans available on any given day. However, there are currently about 60 pairs of jeans for customers to browse through. The same goes for several other items in the store. Women’s jeans are in abundance at Care & Share, with even more pairs available than on the men’s shelves.

Ross said a lot of glassware and reading material has also been donated in recent weeks.

“People don’t use a lot of fancy dinnerware anymore,” Ross said. “We have a lot of books right now because people are thinking, ’Well, I can read this online or on my Kindle.’ There are also a lot of CDs and tapes because those aren’t as popular anymore.”

There is also a great quantity of shoes, kids clothes, pictures and picture frames to be had for bargain prices at the Kiowa County Care & Share.

“We are really full, which is wonderful because we have had such big donations so that way we can turn around and give our profits back to the Ministerial Alliance,” Ross said.

But despite an increase in donations, the number of volunteers to keep the inventory organized has declined.

“We have about 30 volunteers plus the board, of which there are seven,” said Ross. “We have a few less volunteers just because we are mostly 65 and up or 60 and up and some of (our volunteers) were more comfortable with staying home than coming in and working in the store.”

A couple of community men have given their time which has been helpful when it comes time to load the boxes of excess donations on to the Goodwill truck, Ross said.

“We have to take the boxes out of the shed that we are sending on to Goodwill. (The items) are too old or have some damage to them,” Ross said. “We have to store them in our shed then load them on a semi that comes through.”

Before COVID-19, a semi-truck and trailer traveled down US-54/400 highways to collect things from other thrift stores, but the volunteers are lucky to see a truck once a month right now. There are anywhere from 250-300 banana boxes full of things to be sent on to Wichita, so the shortage in trucks is an issue.

“We have really run into problems (due to the lack of trucks),” Ross said. “We have had to have a volunteer or two take a load in with a trailer to Wichita when we got desperate. Last week we filled half of a semi on our own.”

Although the influx of donations and lack of semi loads has made things somewhat stressful for volunteers, they are grateful for the ability to sell things at an affordable rate and give back to the community.

The Kiowa County Ministerial Alliance works to provide housing, food, school supplies, utilities or other expenses that residents can’t cover. To catch upcoming sales or how to donate, go to the Kiowa County Care & Share page on Facebook.