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Impossible Dream Thrift Store seeks to help Mission: Possible

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Fifth in a series.

By REBECCA MADDEN

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Watertown Urban Mission has proved its naysayers wrong over the past several decades, as its thrift shop continues to survive and thrive.

The mission’s Impossible Dream Thrift Store, 247 Factory St., has been the nonprofit agency’s funding crutch since the mission took it under its wing in the mid-1970s. Mission Development Director Andrew G. Mangione said that with the shop bringing in a net profit of $6,000 to $8,000 each month, the public’s participation in the agency’s $2 million “Mission: Possible” capital campaign will play an essential role in the mission being able to enhance shoppers’ experiences there.

An improved experience means more revenue, and more revenue means the mission may help more needy families.

“It’s had its ups and downs, and there’s been times where the mission subsidized the thrift store because it didn’t turn a profit,” Mr. Mangione said. “Since we’ve been in this building for close to a decade, the store has helped support the mission programs in growing amounts year to year.”

The amount of financial support for the capital campaign from the community will dictate how many improvements the agency will be able to make throughout the entire building, including the thrift shop.

Mr. Mangione said mission staff and board members would like the store to have a fresh new look, better displays, more racks, signage and even a wheelchair lift “to give customers an even better feeling while shopping here.”

Throughout the Impossible Dream, shoppers may browse through hundreds of books, movies, trinkets, household items, toys, clothing — both new and gently used, and some designer wear— and furniture, among other items.

Mr. Mangione said the store also has helped with workforce development, as volunteer opportunities often have turned into thrift store employment.

Manager Tammy S. Kirch said each shopper comes into the thrift shop with a story, whether they’re frugal and simply looking for a good deal, or are in need of clothing for their child or dishes on which to serve food to their family. The most desperate situations are referred to the mission’s Critical Needs Program, which may provide a client with a voucher to get items at the Impossible Dream.

“One of the things that has increased over the years with funding cuts is teachers looking for things for their classrooms,” Mrs. Kirch said. “We even help other organizations. We did donate some musical instruments to General Brown last year.”

Mr. Mangione said a former Watertown resident who lives in Northern New Jersey had his house flooded and severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy last year. The man wanted to give his children the Halloween they missed out on, so when he was in the north country visiting, he shopped at the mission; for only $50, he got a variety of Halloween decorations and costume ideas, and decorated his front lawn in December with the thrift shop goods.

Betty J. Salisbury, 81, Antwerp, said she frequents the Impossible Dream Thrift Shop to furnish her home and stock it with household items.

“I’m a widow, and the only income I have since I was laid off is my widow’s benefits,” she said. “I’ve got old doctor bills, and things set aside and couldn’t pay.”

She said the thrift shop is the first place she goes when she needs something for her house, because of the variety of items available and the low prices. She has purchased a couple of paintings, a recliner, wardrobe cabinets and computer desks and chairs, among other things, at the thrift shop, she said.

Mrs. Kirch said people can call the thrift store at 782-0090 for a list of acceptable items to donate, but the store typically runs low on dressers, couches, towels, sheets and pillows.

Mr. Mangione said the campaign has raised nearly $1.6 million thus far. To contribute, drop off cash or send a check payable to Watertown Urban Mission, with “capital campaign” written in the memo line, to Watertown Urban Mission, 247 Factory St., Watertown, N.Y. 13601.

Donations also may be made online via the mission’s website, www.watertownurban mission.com.

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