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Watertown Urban Mission celebrates beginning of remodel

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Browsing the books, clothing and collectable items, Watertown resident Patricia A. Archbold said nothing has changed about the Impossible Dream Thrift Store.

Although makeshift aisles of inventory are in the temporary location of the Watertown Urban Mission’s community room and former waiting area, Mrs. Archbold said friendly service and good deals haven’t gone anywhere.

“We come here quite a bit,” she said, as she held pairs of shoes and a decorative bowl. “We like the old furniture.”

In the adjacent room, where the thrift shop began at 247 Factory St., a ceremonial groundbreaking took place to mark the beginning stages of the store’s remodeling. As part of the mission’s $2 million capital campaign, the store will get new storage boxes, accessible entrances, improved lighting, a lift from the main floor to the bottom floor where furniture is located, and an overall improved shopping experience, among other improvements, according to Executive Director Erika F. Flint.

“These improvements will make sure we’re here for years and years to come,” she said.

That is something Mrs. Archbold said she would be thankful for. One of the improvements she said she was most excited about was the thrift store’s lift, which will provide better access for elderly shoppers.

Thrift store manager Tammy S. Kirch said store traffic has been slower since it recently relocated to its temporary location elsewhere in the building, but the real reason for a decrease in customers is inclement weather. In the meantime, Mrs. Kirch said, she and thrift store staff and volunteers have been trying to keep shelves full to sell more items. The more the store sells, the more money goes back to the mission to support all of its programs.

While under construction, the bottom level of the thrift store will use only about a third of its space, while work is done on the rest.

The thrift store will continue to accept donations, and is in particular need of furniture. Donations can be dropped off during regular store hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

During the groundbreaking, Watertown Urban Mission staff, board members, campaign supporters and campaign co-chairpersons donned blue construction hats and bright yellow construction vests and tapped nails into a board, which people in attendance signed. That board will be used in the remodeling.

The Rev. Frederick G. Garry, campaign co-chairman and pastor of First Presbyterian Church, thanked donors for their support, from the Northern New York Community Foundation’s initial gift of $200,000 to start the capital campaign all the way through to a grant of up to $205,000 from Knorr-Bremse Group, New York Air Brake’s parent company, which pushed the nonprofit over its $2 million goal.

While the thrift store was a focus Thursday, the entire mission is being revitalized and program areas have temporary homes. While the food pantry is being worked on, clients can access it through the parking lot entrance for prepacked food.

Ms. Flint said the agency’s administrative team and the Bridge and HEARTH programs soon will relocate temporarily to Holy Family’s McCarthy Hall, Winthrop Street.

Other improvements she highlighted include replacing the old electrical system, adding insulation, replacing windows, upgrading the heating and cooling system and adding a dumbwaiter for the pantry area so staff can more easily move food from the basement to the pantry on the main floor. Continental Construction Co., Gouverneur, will do the work.

A portion of the capital campaign money also will go toward an endowment for the mission administered by the Northern New York Community Foundation.

Mission staff has said improvements were necessary, especially as the agency continues to serve more people each year. Ten years ago, the mission served 10,000 people annually. Now, it serves about 35,000 people annually, the Rev. Mr. Garry said.

Development Director Andrew G. Mangione said although the mission has surpassed its campaign goal, donations are still accepted to help with any unexpected construction costs, and to help grow the endowment.

To donate, 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. Pledges can be made over five years.

Donations also can be made online via the mission’s website, http://wdt.me/r36bkA.



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