For more than a decade, the Prairie Valley Resale Store has been there for the people of Lodi and the surrounding areas.
Now, as things have turned topsy-turvy during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lodi store — located at 177 S. Main Street — is hoping that the community is able to continue to return the favor even more so than ever.
The pandemic has hit people and businesses in different ways, and the effects it has had on the Prairie Valley Resale Store — a nonprofit operation — are drastic.
“Over the past 11 years, we have been providing the necessities of life, for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals and families from our surrounding communities,” store manager Jennie Larsen said. “Last year, we supplied 189 families with their necessities. We have been successful at accomplishing this until now.”
Despite Governor Tony Evers allowing standalone and strip-mall based stores to open — a measure passed May 11 — Prairie Valley Resale Store does not plan on doing so just yet. It would allow for stores to offer in-person shopping with no more than five people in the store at one time. Because the resale store is so small, Larsen does not feel it is a good idea at the time.
Larsen went on to say that as more and more people lose their jobs — either temporarily or permanently — the resale store grows in importance.
“We are open on an emergency basis now, and I am meeting families daily to supply them with their basic needs.” Larsen said. “It is imperative that their clothing, shoes, school supplies, households goods, etc. are free.”
The biggest problem that Larsen is currently facing is the inability to pay rent for the store. She said that the store is already two months behind in those payments because it has been closed.
“The cold, hard truth is that our store will not survive when it will be needed the most,” Larsen said. “We have the (payments for) electric, water, gas, storage unit, advertising, wifi, etc. all put on hold, yet due when we resume business.”
Larsen said that the store does not qualify for the government’s Paycheck Protection Program because the store has no payroll.
“We are all volunteers making this store happen,” Larsen said. “I’m not even on the payroll for the last 11 years because the store doesn’t make enough money to pay even one person — which it shouldn’t.”
Larsen added that she applied for the Economic Injury and Disaster Loan — financial relief for small businesses — on March 29. That loan could provide the store with emergency monetary relief which do not have to be repaid. She has yet to be notified if the store will receive any funds.
Because the store runs off volunteerism and there is no payroll, Larsen has dipped into her own finances as available. But even that has reached the end.
“I have used up my own financial resources in grocery shopping, paying and delivering food to the elderly, disabled and health or financially stricken citizens in our surrounding communities,” Larsen said.
She added that the elderly she helps are living off of $16 per month in food stamps and will not survive further economic shutdown. Larsen is currently shopping for 28 people and has made 74 deliveries since the “Safer at Home” order initially went into effect. Her deliveries of Sassy Cow milk and breakfast cereal has provided for 225 families.
In 2019, the sales that were made on store items matched its overall expenses, which includes projects for the needy and providing children with eyeglasses, dental repairs and hearing aids for those who need them.
“For 11 years, we have been able to survive and work our magic, by being open to the public for the fun resale store experience,” Larsen said. “It’s hard to guess when consumers will have the confidence to shop in public again. It is imperative for those who are economically disadvantaged for us to be open when the dust settles.”
Larsen is so accustomed to helping those in need, that she has a hard time asking for monetary help in return, especially in as tough of times as the current ones. But for Larsen, it seems to be one of the last resorts in order to save an operation that has saved so many others in the past.
“We are specifically seeking donations for rent, but if you are able to give any amount, we still highly appreciate your support.”
The store is asking those who are able to give wherever possible. Checks can be made payable to Prairie Valley Resale Store or credit card donations can be accepted on its Facebook Page via PayPal.
Any questions can be directed to Larsen at 608-698-7059 or email@example.com.