Sharing Shelves Free Store opens this Tuesday

Jun. 20—From the organizers of Laundry Love, a new downtown store to provide needs for free is opening up in Abilene tomorrow. Sharing Shelves Free Store is a volunteer-run store full of clothing, decorations, hygiene products and other items anybody can walk into and take what they need.

“There cannot be enough places for people to go where they can feel empathy and no judgment,” said Wendi Pratt, organizer of the free store. “We want people to come here. This is for everybody. We want to repurpose, reuse, recycle, pay it forward, whatever.”

Pratt and Holly Walker, organizer of the free store, said they both have wanted to open a free store. Timing of events in her own life has allowed the store to open now.

“My daughter moved out, so I was bored, and so I started couponing, like extreme couponing, because I used to do that all the time. So I had this stockpile of stuff in my spare room, and I would take products out to Laundry Love every month,” Walker said. “Well then I kind of got tired of doing that, but everything was still in my spare room and my daughter started sending home baby stuff with me. I’m like, ‘I got to get a space to get rid of all this stuff.'”

“I moved to Italy in 2001, and there was a store over there called The New and Not Shop and I wanted to own that store,” Pratt said. “I’ve always wanted to own a thrift store.”

The store is affiliated with the non-profit organization The Cedar House, but is not one of their programs, said Walker, who is also on The Cedar House Board. The store shares a bank account with Laundry Love. Pratt said a group of people have committed to paying the store’s monthly rent. Besides from that group and monetary donations, the store is not receiving another income. Meaning, the store is run by volunteers without pay.

Walker and Pratt said they have several ideas for future community events that they are considering. For example, they are thinking about having a prom event where girls whose families cannot afford expensive dresses can look at a selection of dresses the free store has gathered. Another idea is having a Christmas event where kids can pick out Christmas presents for their guardians and wrap them.

Walker and Pratt said they want to make sure the free store does not encroach on what other nonprofits are doing in Abilene. They are seeking to do events and opportunities those nonprofits are doing.

Walker said the store has separate times for when they are open and when they are accepting donations. The store will not take item donations when the store is open, and vice versa. Walker said the store needed their schedule structure so that the volunteers have time and space to sort through the donations.

Walker and Pratt also said the store does not limit how many times a person comes into the store and not limit based on their income.

Sharing Shelves Free Store’s first day open is June 21 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. They are at 307 N. Cedar St. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

“Everybody needs money, and things are just costing more. We’re seeing, just in the world in general or the United States, that people who used to do OK and not need certain services are now needing those services, but they are not easy to access. We want this to be really easy,” Pratt said.

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