REED CITY – “It was a decision a long time coming,” is how Nancy Lentz described the one made to close the store in Reed City that allowed anyone basically from anywhere to come and receiving clothing and other items for free.

The fact that it began even before she moved to the area in 1976, didn’t make the tough decision any easier. “It has been around at least that long,” she said, “and it was in the basement of the Historical Society Building where Rite Aid now stands. That spot used to be the opera house. The clothing store has a history literally for decades.”

Lentz is with the Mecosta-Osceola County Human Services and said the rumors that the site just north of Reed City’s downtown area will be closing are no longer just rumors. It will close by the end of September.

She explained that 1,200 to 2,000 people came to the center each month. “We served anybody, no matter where they were from,” she said. “The need of the people was never the issue, but to be able to find another facility, really is one.”

She explained that while donations went up and down at times, “we certainly were in need of them. It’s not because of a lack of community support,” she said, “because I feel the community supported it very well. Some clothing brought was not useable, and we struggled to dispose of those things. I’m sure other clothing centers run into similar problems.”

She agreed that the site had limited parking, but in spite of all the little things such as those two, “it was very important to the community, to so many people.”

So then why would it close? The building needs repairs, and we’ve had some concerns, but the recycling owners always did wonderful with us, they did the best they could. We were concerned with the physical plant. The location. The parking. There wasn’t much that could be changed there.”

She stressed that “many other organization are available to fill the needs of people in this area, and perhaps there’s a church group or another organization, or the community itself feels a need to have a free clothing center in the community. That could happen.

“I’m sure Love, INC has run into similar problems as far as disposing of some items, and finding ample space, but they are certainly offering the community a good service. They’ve been very generous in working with us and with the people in need.”

She reminded that there’s a “FreeStore in Evart that has an outreach of clothing for those in need, provided by members at a church in Grand Rapids, through Brooks Corner Church in Evart. And there’s the Wise Shopper in Big Rapids, Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, the Oasis in Cadillac, and many others.

“But if having a free clothing center is something the Reed City community wants, perhaps an organization or a church in that area would look at it as a potential ministry. The center we’re closing certainly served a large community for many decades, and we’d be interested in talking with anyone that might have an idea. We’d explore ideas and concerns with them. My direct line is (231) 796-4312.

“We were lucky to have a location where costs were very minimal. The county board was paying $200 a month toward heat and light costs for us to be there. To open another, it would take a group dedicated to finding the financial and volunteer resources needed to operate. Over the years the volunteers have been remarkable. Have there been problems in all those years? Overall a few, but we worked together and tried so hard. Together.”

The store for free clothing in Reed City is nearing closing now. The doors will lock for good by month’s end.