BATH — An organization that has long offered help to those in need now needs some help of its own.
The Clothing Exchange, an arm of the Bath Area Food Bank, has been hosted for no charge at the Corliss Street Baptist Church since 1988, according to Food Bank Chairman Harold Glover.
The exchange recently ceased operations until a new home can be found. In the meantime, its inventory remains at the Corliss Street church.
“I really would like to … sustain this ministry, because there are a lot of people in our area who get clothes from us because they can’t get them anywhere else,” Glover said last week. “They would be cold without our help.”
The exchange is seeking a safe, clean, accessible place, within proximity to downtown, with space to accommodate a sorting room, a client check-in room and a room for the display and distribution of clothing for women, men and children. A laundry room would be helpful, too.
“But if space becomes available and it’s not exactly convenient, we’ll take it,” Glover said.
He noted that the exchange, which serves anyone in need, has been housed in an old building – the church was built more than 150 years ago – and access is limited.
“We’re on the second floor, and the stairs are narrow and steep,” he said. “Even though we put a chairlift in, it’s not quite safe. One of our managers had health issues, lung issues, and she can no longer work here. So the atmosphere is not good for our clients or our workers. We just simply need to find a more modern space.”
He said the church, actually located at Weeks and Middle streets, is trying to reduce expenses and may either close down the second floor of the building or use it for storage.
Glover said the exchange also lacks the means for washing donated clothes that need cleaning. Although the exchange asks for clean clothes, it doesn’t always get them.
Despite the need to move elsewhere, Glover emphasized his gratitude to the church’s congregation and pastor for hosting the clothing exchange without any thought of remuneration.
Glover also praised the work of the exchange’s volunteers over the years, as well as that of Wallace Hinkley, a founding member of the Food Bank, who for years ran the clothing exchange almost single-handedly.
“He was one of the most generous men in the community,” Glover said. “He must have given clothes to hundreds of people. … He was the spirit behind the clothing exchange.”
The Food Bank, which involves 12 churches around greater Bath, consists of a soup kitchen at the First Baptist Church, the food pantry at the United Church of Christ and the clothing exchange.
Glover said his vision for the Food Bank is for one building to be constructed that would house all three services. But he noted that such an endeavor would be costly. While grant money might be available, maintenance expenses could make the venture cost-prohibitive, at least right now.
“I haven’t given up hope yet,” Glover said. “It’s a long-term plan; I’m talking five or 10 years.”
Harold Glover, chairman of the Bath Area Food Bank, is looking for a new home for the bank’s clothing exchange.