Items from Past Provide Opportunity for Future

ALTOONA, Iowa –Aging loved ones often leave behind a home full of furniture, dishes, and other items their family members don't have room for or no longer need. A food pantry is turning a lifetime of possessions into a blessing for the community.

Opening boxes is an adventure for Marilyn Mauk. “You never know what kind of treasure you`ll discover,” she said.

Mauk is a volunteer for Caring Hands Outreach Center in Altoona. She's part of a new endeavor for the food pantry and clothing hanger to extend its reach. "There are a lot of people in need and the money that is coming from this is going to help people to get food to put on the table for their family," she said.

It's called Caring Hands Online Sales. The building is located a few doors down from the outreach center on Ninth Street NE in Altoona. Inside the building, you'll find volunteers sorting through items typically donated from estates.

“We take a volunteer crew out there, help them sort it out and bring it over here," said Mauk.

They'll clean up the glass, polish the furniture, and figure out a price. Mauk said, “We do research online, and we`ve got a lot of reference books as well.'

They put interesting items on E-bay, fine dishes on Etsy, and post furniture on Facebook Marketplace.

Caring Hands Online Sales has just been up and running for a couple months. Volunteers handle all the inventory and computer work. The goal down the road is to make it a job training program.

Executive Director Ned Looney said, “So if you`re coming out of the Mitchellville Women`s Correctional Institute, and now kind of transfer back into life if you will, you don`t have job skills that are up to date for the last few years. Well, we have a job here that uses computers, that requires some retail skills, and we plan on developing that, so we can help transition people back in.”

Money from online sales will support the pantry and clients in need of rent and utility assistance, but the biggest benefit might come from its network of 156 volunteers who can serve as mentors to those looking for more than food and monetary assistance. Looney said, “I look at that as our biggest asset because we move forward, starting to make a difference in people`s lives."

Caring Hands Online Sales isn't open like a typical retail store, but volunteers can help you Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. by appointment. The building is located at 301 Ninth Street NE in Altoona.

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