DU QUOIN — A valuable asset for Du Quoin's low-income community will be closing its doors for good this week.
The Salvation Army Thrift Store, which has called Du Quoin home for about eight years, will be shuttered because of budget problems, according to Jack Wang, a spokesperson for the SA. He attributed the need to close the facility to “the rising cost of operating.”
He said the decision was not any easy one — he said closing community access points to the Salvation Army is always hard.
“It always is because for so many small towns, the thrift store is how the citizens connect with the Salvation Army,” he said. He said they are aware, too, that the loss of jobs will also sting for the locals hired to run the shop.
Wang said the Salvation Army exists in about every ZIP code in the U.S. and has a dual mission.
“What people have to realize is that the SA as an organization is a ministry,” he said. This is in combination with its needs to also operate a successful business. He said this spiritual ministry, which he said is what separates a place like the SA from Walmart, is what guides the Salvation Army’s officers.
“They are called to in essence (help) their fellow man especially if their fellow man is in need,” Wang said.
Wang said while the Salvation Army is closing its storefront, they will still be offering rent and utility assistance through a partnership with Western Egyptian E.O.C.
Ashley Greer, Perry County community service coordinator for WEEOC, said residents looking for rent or utility assistance should visit their Du Quoin office. She said clothing vouchers are still available as well, but would need to be redeemed at the closest Salvation Army Thrift Store location.
Wang pointed out that there are still Salvation Army Thrift Store locations in West Frankfort, Marion and Harrisburg. He said there are no other Salvation Army locations in the area that are slated to be closed.
Du Quoin Mayor Guy Alongi said he only heard of the news a few weeks ago through social media. He said the Salvation Army Thrift Store helped key parts of his city.
“I think it served the low-income community real well,” he said, adding that while there are other places in town that also deal in reasonably priced, gently used clothing, having options is always good.
Alongi said his office was not contacted by the Salvation Army for assistance.
“The city of Du Quoin would have definitely done everything we could to keep it,” he said, adding that he was not sure what kind of assistance they could have lent, if any.
Alongi said he has not had anyone come to him expressing concern or disappointment over the closure, but he said he’s not surprised.
“I think that that’s just the mindset of people when they see something (like this) that they just know it’s probably being closed because of budget cuts,” he said.
Even still, though the closure of the Salvation Army Thrift Store might leave a hole in his city, Alongi said he has faith in the people he represents. He knows they are strong and community-minded, he said. However, he said losing any business is always hard, especially when Du Quoin has not had quite the rebound from the recent recession as other, larger cities in Southern Illinois have. But he feels Du Quoin will move forward.
“We make our way and we survive,” he said.
Colette Caplinger is the regional thrift store and social services director for The Salvation Army of Southern Illinois. Caplinger said she and her team have been honored to serve the Du Quoin community.
Caplinger plans to serve the whole of Southern Illinois this season by raising donations for their Tree of Lights campaign, a fundraising opportunity to support those needing food, rent and utility assistance. She is also helping coordinate the Angel Tree campaign — a program giving community members the opportunity to help purchase Christmas gifts for children who may otherwise have none.
After the Thrift Shop’s doors close for good Friday, Wang said the leftover merchandise will either be given to other retail locations or donated to area churches.