December 01st, 2023

Store will be located in Plains, more stores possibly to come

Stepping Stone Director Bambi Fulton prepares to organize donations to have some of them ready to truck to a new thrift store opening soon in Plains. L&T photo/Robert Pierce

• Leader & Times

The word “problem” often carries with it a negative connotation. Bambi Fulton, however, has what some people may consider a good problem.
Fulton is the director of Liberal’s Stepping Stone Shelter, and over the years, the shelter has received an abundance of donations. The level of donations lately, though, have led to a lack of space in the building’s basement where many of the items are stored.
“Enough to fill a basement a few times over in a year,” Fulton said of the level of donations Stepping Stone currently has.
The director said the number of pounds of donation are not normally tracked, but with this recent news, that may just start being part of what takes place at the shelter.
“Our basement is really big,” she said. “When people bring donations, they don’t just bring a bag or two. Usually, they bring like six. It just creates a lot of stuff. We take furniture donations. We take household items and all of that stuff. It’s just a huge overabundance.”
The items in the basement do not include larger donated things, which are stored elsewhere at Stepping Stone.
“The furniture definitely does, but we have a shed where we keep the beds,” Fulton said. “We’ve used our living room area I don’t know how many times for big pieces of furniture, the basement when we’ve had room. Our basement is fairly big, so we’ve used the basement a few times for big furniture.”
To alleviate some of the room at the facility, Fulton recently took an idea to her board to open a thrift store. She said the plan began to be put in place about two or three months ago, and a building has been found.
“I get the keys for it today,” she said Wednesday. “It was a building that was donated. The building itself is donated. The maintenance on the building will be donated. I do think if we have any expense that goes with it, it’s going to be towards utilities. A grant will take care of the utilities for that.”
Fulton said how the thrift store will be run has been mostly nailed down at this point.
“We do get so many donations,” she said. “We used to have the Sharing Saturday. We would have to shift stuff out, and a lot of that would go to the Sharing Saturday. People would come and pick it up for free.”
Like many non-profits, Stepping Stone is always looking for additional means of income. After seeing what another shelter did with a thrift store, Fulton said she was impressed by the idea.
“We kind of started the planning period from there,” she said. “Now, we will not have the Sharing Saturday.”
Because of the donation of the building, which will be in Plains, not Liberal, Fulton said 100 percent of the money that comes in from the thrift store will go back into the operation fund for Stepping Stone.
“Our residents will still have access to it,” she said. “We will keep some clothes and stuff here. We still have room for it in the basement. Just not overflowed where we can’t walk in our basement. They’ll have access to that, and they’ll have access to the stuff at the thrift store for free like they always have. Whatever profit we do make will go back into shelter operations.”
Fulton said the store will be run totally by volunteers, and the target date for opening is Aug. 1.
“We’re still trying to get fixtures,” she said. “We have to start trucking stuff over there. It’s going to be located in Plains. It’s not going to be here in Liberal. The reason being is because the building, we couldn’t find a building here in Liberal that was pretty well free. A generous donater donated us the building and the maintenance. We’re going to start over there in Plains.”
Fulton said as support is built in Liberal, her next goal will be to build another thrift store here. She added the need for a thrift store is huge in the communities of Plains, Kismet and Meade, though, and the shelter does get a lot of support from that area.
Fulton said she wanted to emphasize that the thrift store will be ran by 100 percent volunteers and 100 percent of the profits will go back into shelter operations.
“They know where they’re donating to, what they’re donating to,” she said. “We have a really good response about it here lately, and at Christmas time, we had slowed down our donations because we got so many. Now, we’ve picked it back up, and we’re accepting everything as long as it’s in good condition.”
Fulton said the thrift store will begin as a small operation, with hours being from 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The store will be located on Grand Avenue in Plains next to the Young At Heart Senior Citizens Center.
“Since this is kind of a trial, if we get a great response, we will open the thrift store more hours, but this is just kind of where we’re starting at,” she said.
Fulton said shelter officials have also been busy trying to get the word out about the store.
“We’ll have brochures, we’ll have flyers for the thrift store,” she said. “It kind of creeped up on us really quick. We will also be looking for volunteers who would like to help organize, sort or even run some of the hours for the thrift store.”
Fulton said volunteer work can be done either at Stepping Stone in Liberal or at the thrift store in Plains.
“They can organize stuff for the thrift store here before it gets trucked over there,” she said. “My family will be donating a lot of time to get it up and running.”
Naturally, Fulton is excited to get the store up and running.
“It’s been an awesome go with the shelter, and I think this is just a great opportunity,” she said.