The Free Store at the Propel Northside Community Wellness Center first opened in the winter of 2018. It operates year round, providing new and gently used clothing and personal care items for free.

Photo By Artem Beliaikin for Pexels 

By Noah Manalo

On Saturday, Sept. 14, The Northside Chronicle stopped by the Free Store at the Propel Northside Community Wellness Center. Housed beneath Propel Schools Northside, the store provides the community with new and gently used clothing and personal care items at no cost.

The Free Store, which first opened in the winter of 2018, is open every second and fourth Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.* It operates year round.

Caroline Barmen, the site coordinator for the Propel Northside Community Wellness Center, spoke with the Chronicle about how the concept for the store began. A need for the store was observed from the student body, she said, and she sought to fill the need.

Barmen gave a lot of credit to Gisele Fetterman, who helped get the store started to serve the Northside community. 

Gisele Fetterman, wife of former Braddock mayor and current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, runs the Free Store in Braddock. She donated items to help the Northside store get started.

Barmen also picked the brains of organizers at the Wilkinsburg Free Store to get ideas on how to track donations during operating hours.

The Free Store accepts donations during donation hours during the week, but donations can be accepted anytime during the week while the Community Center is open.

While there is no room to store larger items such as household furniture, the Northside Free Store does provide personal care items such as Tide Pods, shampoo, and deodorant. 

The Store operates under a “Take What You Need” policy. Customers are limited to five clothing items and two personal care items per person per visit. Ten clothing items can be taken if an individual is shopping for a family.

The Northside Free Store keeps track of weekly visits and goods provided to measure community impact. Barmen reported, for instance, that on Sept. 14, the store had 32 customer visits. One hundred and twenty items of clothing, 46 personal care items and 11 pair of shoes were given away. 

In addition, customers left with fresh peaches and squash, compliments of Northside Common Ministries, and fresh bread, compliments of Breadworks.

Mary Anne Klein, a former resident of Observatory Hill and a current resident of McCandless, is a volunteer for the Free Store.

“It’s a wonderful experience to be able to give back to the neighborhood,” said Klein.

Barmen encourages those in need in the community to come visit the Store and utilize the services provided.

“It’s a great asset to the neighborhood, and it’s very fun to meet people,” said Barmen. “We love being around them, and we’re excited to provide needed items to the community.”

Be sure to visit the Free Store at the Propel Northside Community Wellness Center, open every other Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.*

 

*A previous version of this article listed incorrect hours of operation. The free store is open every other Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 9/27/2019