Faces of Need — and Hope - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Faces of Need — and Hope

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Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 3:30 pm

When the Mesa Family YMCA opened its thrift store last fall, manager Georgie Campanozzi’s first customer was a homeless man who needed shoes and a shirt. He found both, which he proceeded to put on immediately and tuck his old shoes into a backpack that he’d gotten earlier from the Salvation Army in Mesa.

“He was so excited with his finds,” says Campanozzi. “I tried to give them to him, explaining he was the first customer on opening day. He would have none of it and insisted on paying something.”

He opened his wallet, displaying a five- and a one-dollar bill. “Guess which denomination I took? He blessed me, walking off in his purchases with his pride intact and my heart bursting with thanks that I was there to help.

“Unbeknownst to that homeless man, he was our lucky charm for the day. We helped a lot of people on opening day and gave each child that came in a stuffed animal of their choice. Such big decisions!”

The new thrift store is in its own building tucked behind the YMCA at 207 N. Mesa Drive, and was created to help struggling individuals and families in the surrounding neighborhoods. It mainly stocks donated clothing for people of all ages, plus some housewares, books and toys. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Donation day is Tuesday, when good used clothing, shoes, housewares, toys, stuffed animals, books and nonperishable food items can be dropped off between 8 and 11 a.m. Because of the store’s modest size, furniture is not accepted. The food is given to the First Presbyterian Church next door, which has a food-box distribution program.

The thrift store was made possible by a partnership between the YMCA and Mesa United Way, which provides funding as well as Campanozzi through its AmeriCorps program. Campanozzi, who relies on volunteers to help with the thrift store, says it is not intended as a revenue source for the Y, but rather to ensure everyone in the surrounding area, regardless of their means, can get good clothing and housewares and that children can get toys, books and stuffed animals.

Any proceeds from the store will be used to stage events such as nutrition classes and fashion shows to help get the word out about what’s available, says Campanozzi. She invites human service agencies and churches in Mesa to also spread the word.

As business slowly builds, she still remembers that opening day as “one of the best days of my life. I knew that for a fact when I forgot about the hard work and long hours we all put in to get this store ready to help all those in our community.”

To read more “Faces of Need — and Hope” stories and to find out how you can help, visit www.mesaunitedway.org. To learn more about the Mesa Family YMCA, visit www.valleyymca.org/mesa. Contact Campanozzi at gcampanozzi@cox.net or (480) 438-6463.

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