Perhaps never has a business been so appropriately named as Iola’s Second Chance store.
Not only does it apply to helping save scores of dogs and cats, with profits going to the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility in LaHarpe, it also applies to the merchandise itself. Rather than collecting dust in a closet, or simply being deposited in the landfill, items are being restored and resold through Second Chance, at 209 South St.
And now, after years of growing pains, Second Chance has done itself one better. It has become an integral source of income for ACARF.
“I guess you could say it’s given ACARF a second chance, too,” laughed Ginny Hawk, one of a number of volunteers who have helped save Second Chance — and ACARF.
“We have our head above water now,” noted Janice Porter, ACARF director. “A year ago, we couldn’t say that.”
In fact, it was a year ago at this time that ACARF had warned the public that it would have to close its doors without a higher, steady source of income.
“It was a year ago at Farm-City Days that we put out the word, we had no money, we had no big donors, and we were going to go under.”
Porter estimated then that ACARF needed about $4,500 just to meet its bare expenses — with the price much higher when other upkeep costs are included.
The shelter has three sources of funding: Donations, contracts with area cities, and the proceeds from sales at Second Chance.
Porter said the first two bring in about $3,000 to $3,500 a month, but did not want to say what sales from the store meant to the shelter.
SINCE THE facility opened in 2010, volunteers have brainstormed on how to create additional streams of income.
Jeanne Cloud, one of the facility’s founders, came up with the idea of the second-hand store.
After several attempts at different locations, they hit the jackpot in 2014 when Hawk purchased the building on South Street.
Not only was it roomy enough to hold merchandise, but it also included a room next door where dog owners can wash their pets.
Several volunteers, including Iolan Jim Smith, helped prepare the store for its grand opening.
“He really got us going. He built the shelves, replaced the windows,” Hawk said. “I don’t know how long it would have taken us to get things going without him.”
And time was of the essence.
Without additional income, ACARF figured it would have to close its doors by that December.
HAWK and Hazel Jones, another volunteer, noted Second Chance seems to be getting busier by the day.
“I didn’t know this before, but there are people from out of town who come to Iola to go to places like the Treasure Chest,” another second-hand store. “We’re becoming a regular stopping point for them, too.”
“We certainly don’t want to brag,” Jones said. “We don’t want people to think we don’t need their help. We definitely appreciate all of the volunteers and donors.”
A crew of 15 volunteers helps man the store from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week.
Some help sort through donated items that are brought in daily. Others help stock shelves, or work the cash register.
“We have one lady who does nothing but fold plastic bags for us,” Hawk said. “Every little bit helps.”
Jones noted more help is welcomed.
“We’re so thankful for our volunteers, but we’re all kind of old,” she said with a laugh. “We want some younger helpers, who can fill in.”
Hawk pointed to another vital leg of support, financial donors.
“The people in the community really stepped up with their auto-pay plan,” she said. There, a donor can arrange to have money automatically taken from his bank account once a month. Donations can be scheduled through the ACARF Website, or through its Facebook page.
Porter, meanwhile, points to other ways people can help.
“It’s not just money,” she said. “People can donate to the store. They’ll bring towels, blankets, cat toys, things like that, to us.”