“The closer we get to Christmas, we are seeing more and more need,” said Lori Falk, executive director of the Common Ground Free Store, located on Central Avenue.
The store provides a variety of items and warm meals free of charge to Delaware residents in need.
Since January, the store has helped 5,000 different families and served between 15,000 and 18,000 meals, all provided by volunteers.
Falk said the hardest step for people in need is getting in the door.
“We never know why they come,” Falk said. “Everyone has their own story.”
Falk, who has over thirty years of non-profit management experience, said 15 percent of their patrons cannot read or write and 10 percent to 18 percent are homeless. The store is a non-profit with a budget of $115,000 a year. It is primarily funded by individual donors and has partnerships with 33 churches.
Deb Whitney, who describes herself as “a garden-variety volunteer,” said blankets, towels, sheets, housewares and children’s clothes are in particularly high demand.
“Those things blow out of here fast,” she said. “We never have enough of that stuff.”
Donations must be in good enough condition that you would give the items to a friend or neighbor, and the store does not accept furniture. Whitney said people sometimes return children’s clothing they got at the store that their children have outgrown.
“They want to be sure we have the opportunity to give them to other patrons,” she said.
Freshman Ellen Sizer began volunteering at Common Ground Free Store this semester after visiting with her UC 160 class. She said she “fell in love” with the place.
While volunteering, she keeps track of the items patrons take and interacts with them, which is why she visits as often as she can, she said.
“I love the whole communal factor of this place,” Sizer said. “I like connecting to the people and interacting with them. It is truly a special place in that way.”
For information about how to get involved, either donating or volunteering, those interested can visit the Delaware Common Ground Free Store website, commongroundfreestore.org, or like the Common Ground Free Store’s page on Facebook.