WINTER PARK, Fla. – Sheila Bridegam recalled how heartbroken she was after she saw the devastating images of the Boys & Girls Club thrift store in Winter Park that she puts her heart and soul into each day.
“I actually literally broke down, cried because this means, this is where my heart is,” said Bridegam, who serves as the store manager. “When I looked on the cameras on Thursday morning (after the hurricane), I literally looked down and saw this brown floating stuff and I said, ‘What is that?’”
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The brown stuff she saw on the security footage was contaminated water from a nearby lake and ditch that overflowed during Hurricane Ian.
“Anything that the water touched we cannot even think about trying to clean or resell because it would be too dangerous,” Bridegam said. “We actually received 2 (feet) of water inside the building. We lost all our clothing. We lost all the furniture that was in here.”
About 80% of the store’s inventory had to be thrown away. The water is now gone but much work needs to be done before it can reopen, like replacing 4 feet of each wall and restoring the floor.
Aside from the restoration, Bridegam said the store is in need donations to replenish supplies before they reopen to the public.
“I need for the public to know that from furniture to home décor to clothing, anything that you normally would be donating a thrift or a charity, is what we need,” Bridegam said.
According to the store manager, the community thrift store is vital in supporting the Boys & Girls Club programs through its sales.
“Everything that we sell, the only thing that is taken out of those sales would be the overhead of the building and the payroll of the staff. Everything else goes into these much-needed programs,” she said. “These boys and girls are able to learn things. They’re exposed to things that normally they would not have access to.”
From Wednesday to Saturday, donations can de dropped off at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida thrift store in Winter Park. Staff will be available from 10 a.m. to 430 p.m. collecting anything from clothing, home décor, cleaning essentials and furniture.
Bridegam said the restoration begins in about two and half weeks and she hopes the store will be back open by December.
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