BY SARA SHEIKH
Back in 1968, a group of “church ladies” stumbled upon life on the other side of the tracks. The women were shocked to see the deprivation that existed in the neighborhood known as Pigeon Hill. The sight of ramshackle housing inspired the group to lend a helping hand.
They first began by simply giving clothing to the underprivileged residents of the neighborhood. This evolved into a more organized effort when they opened Opportunity House at 907 W. 11th St., a store that sells donated clothing and other used items. Originally designed to provide the less fortunate with a low-cost shopping alternative, today Opportunity House serves a much wider clientele.
“I see Opportunity House as a testament to the power of the people,” says General Manager Nicola Payne, 55. “The church ladies saw something was wrong, and they found a way to x it.”
As a revenue source for Monroe County United Ministries (MCUM), Opportunity House sales support MCUM’s efforts to provide childcare to low-income families. Opportunity House also accepts vouchers distributed by MCUM to people who are unable to afford things they direly need such as bedding, kids’ back-to-school clothes, and professional attire.
With only two paid employees, Opportunity House is dependent on more than 60 volunteers who sift through donations, separating merchandise that can be sold from merchandise that can’t. Volunteers also price everything, stock the store, and run the cash registers.
“All merchandise goes through two people who are responsible for determining items are in good condition and something we would wear,” Payne says.
Thanks to the carefully vetted merchandise and a commitment to maintaining economical pricing, Opportunity House appeals to antique collectors and thrift-store shoppers as well as bargain hunters and low-income buyers. Merchandise includes everyday clothing to fit any age and most sizes, winter coats, toys, housewares, and collectable or specialty items like Hummel figurines, Michael Jackson LPs, and cameras and camera equipment.
For information about hours, donations, and volunteering, call 812- 336-2443.