Pulaski County, Va. (WFXR)– With cold nights already among us, and chilly Fall days seeping their way into the season, one Pulaski County non-profit is paying it forward.
Sabrina Davidson-Ratcliffe says that’s the goal of the Pulaski County Free Store, as they set up their new outdoor fall and winter coat rack.
“If they are cold and they need something then pull up get a coat, get a blanket, get some gloves. That’s what it is for. You don’t need to wait for us to open,” said Ratcliffe.
The President and Co-Founder of the nonprofit says while the store itself is only open on the first and third Sunday of each month, people can still grab whatever they need outside the store whenever.
“That’s why we have the refrigerators outside, so if people need food or whatever they can access that stuff when we are not opened,” said Ratcliffe.
One Dublin resident who lives off of their social security income says coming to the store means everything.
Rocky visits the store as many times as he can because he enjoys what it has to offer and the new people he meets.
Bookstore owner, Autumn Morgera, calls it a game-changer.
“I think everybody needs a hand up. We are all struggling to overcome the economic situation in the area. Everybody needs a little help sometimes, and it doesn’t matter what your background is or what your circumstances are,” said Morgera.
So, how did the Free Store get started?
Ratcliffe says while she was on a trip to New York City, she saw a woman who was homeless on the street and wanted to do something in honor of her.
“I feel that no one should feel discarded as trash or made to feel disposable — because everyone is worthy and everyone and everyone should be treated with dignity,” said Ratcliffe.
When she came back to Pulaski County, she and her friend decided to start a free store out of a storage unit.
Eventually, they moved out of there — and by using some of their retirement funds — Ratcliffe’s husband bought the current building they are in now.
She explains that everything is free, and whatever you can carry in your paper bag is what you are allowed to leave the store with.
“We have things that range from home goods, to kitchen items, to clothing, to personal care items, to children’s clothing, to books, to DVDs, to children’s toys, and anything in between,” said Ratcliffe.
She says typically when the store is open, there is a line outside with over 100 people. However, only 20 people at a time are allowed in the store because of the massive need.
As the President and Co-Founder, Ratcliffe says she feels so happy because of the relationship that they have built with other people — describing it as a mutual relationship that continues to grow.
Later down the road, Ratcliffe says she is looking to add transitional housing and other things to help get people back on their feet, as well as partnering with other local organizations to grow the free store into her dream.