Thrift shop fulfilling mission to help those in need

by Geoff Fox

The storefront at the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue has seen its share of tenants, whether it be a game room, restaurant, or furniture store.

The HELP Center, Inc. Thrift Store, located at 146 West Main Street, opened in January and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Since January, it’s been the home to HELP Center, Inc.’s thrift store with an aim to help those in need.

HELP Center, Inc. Director Maureen Austing said there are several reasons the non-profit organization has the thrift shop.

“We don’t rely on any grants whatsoever,” she said. What comes in from the thrift store goes to the rent and other upkeep bills.

Austing said she also volunteers, as does anyone who works the store as there isn’t enough income right now to pay anyone.

There’s a need in the community, she added, and that’s why HELP Center opened the thrift store.

In Hancock, there isn’t an easy access to new clothing for people unless they have a car or can drive up to 30 miles.

Austing said 90% of the items in the shop are donated “one way or the other” with some items bought at auction. Some things, she buys things with her own money and donates them to the store.

Austing has tried to talk to big box stores such as Belk, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart about donating items they couldn’t sell or would be interested in donating. Kohl’s, however, did donate hangers, as there are a lot of clothes that needed hanging.

She noted there have been several people in town who have donated large stacks of clothing and an auction house is getting ready to donate a tractor-trailer load of clothing to HELP.

Austing said if people wanted to donate stuff to the shop, they can stop by during business hours Wednesday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and bring it there to make arrangements or she can pick up smaller items.

Austing said the store won’t take mattresses.

Right now, Austing is only doing pick up on smaller items due to her truck being totaled as it was parked in front of the store.

Since opening in January, Austing said the community has been very receptive.

While there are clothing racks, the majority of space is filled with a variety of items from DVDs to paintings to odds and ends.

Every day, Austing said they give child clothing away as well as educational materials.

Austing said there was a person who was living in a camper and recently came in to the store who had just lost everything in a flash flood.

They had been to four of five stores in the area, but none would help her due to lack of money.

Austing told the person to pick out what they needed – clothing, shoes, underwear, toys – and they’d figure out what they have.

“We basically hooked her up with about $140 worth of items and she gave me about 10 bucks,” Austing said. “That’s what we want to do.”

She said the items sitting in the store aren’t helping anybody and it needs to go to those who need help.

The HELP Center, Inc. Thrift Store offers a wide variety of things like clothing, toys, DVDs, furniture, decorative art, and other items.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about helping people get back on their feet, helping them learn how to manage their money, stuff like that,” Austing said.

HELP Center, Inc. isn’t a new non-profit, as there was a location on National Pike, but it is new to Hancock.

HELP stands for “Help Empower Local People”

Austing said the organization offers classes on nutrition and budgeting and opening bank accounts while working with BB&T to do so.

Right now there are three board members, with a possible fourth wanting to get on.

HELP Center has also done creek clean up, most recently in the Conococheague Creek, going from Broadfording Road to Kemp’s Mill, pulling out a number of large bags trash.

Austing said they’d clean up the Tonoloway creeks here in Hancock if permitted.

If someone were to need help and it’s not during the HELP Center’s business hours, Austing said people can reach out to her at 240-329-7123 or and she’ll make arrangements to meet them.