- Associated Press - Thursday, November 6, 2014

MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) - A nonprofit children’s store in Morganton is aiming to make a difference in the lives of families who need help making ends meet.

Reagan’s Kids Store & More, a Christian mission children’s store, offers gently-used and new clothing for a low price, along with many other items for kids. They also offer help to families in need by allowing them to pick out clothes for free if they are unable to buy them.

Owner Karen Wyatt and Manager June Alexander have used their past experiences as motivation to help families and mothers who are struggling, since they were once in their shoes. Neither woman receives any proceeds or salary from the store - the money that is made goes toward building rent and utilities.

The store has an upstairs and a basement filled with racks and walls of clothing, toys, puzzles, games, shoes, games, baby items, backpacks, sleeping bags, lamps, books and much more. Inspirational quotes, such as “Wish it, dream it, do it,” light up the walls, and the inside of the store also is framed with paper hands and hearts with written names that stand for the people the store has helped and the people who have helped them by donating.

Reagan’s Kids Store, which was named after her granddaughter, has been open for a year, and received nonprofit status in August, Wyatt said. It is important for people to know that they are now a legitimate nonprofit, since people are more likely to donate items if they are tax deductible.



“We have been getting more donations, and that’s very helpful because that just means that we can do more,” she said.

Many people who come into the store are single mothers or grandparents trying to support their grandkids, as well as those having difficulty getting benefits or have children with special clothing needs. Teachers come in to purchase discounted items like toys or room rugs for their classrooms, Alexander said.

She and Wyatt were both teen mothers and at some point struggled to make ends meet, so they have even more of a heart for what they do each day.

“It makes me feel good to be able to help people and not be judgmental,” Alexander said. “It was hard, and one of the biggest things was people judge you and look down on you when you’re a single mom.”

Wyatt said she always has had the desire to help children who need some clothes or toys. Before the store opened, she would buy and distribute clothes to families she knew needed them. Through her pastor, she also found families who couldn’t afford to buy a Christmas dinner and bought extra turkeys and food items to give to them during the holidays. She decided it was time to expand and open a store, where she could be accessible to more people who needed help, and Alexander offered to help her make it happen.

“The store itself started out as helping families in need,” she said. “I was spending money on clothes and different items that people needed. I took a leap of faith and opened the store.”

Wyatt still uses money from her pocket to buy many of the items for the store. When a nearby store goes out of business, she is sure to grab the new items that are being sold at a discounted price so that she can resell them in the store.

So far this year, the store has given out $6,500 in merchandise, Wyatt said. Many of the clothes sold are brand name, such as Tommy Hilfiger, GAP, Old Navy, Justice and Levi and are in like-new condition. The store offers clothing sizes for newborn to young adult, and prices range from free to about $20-25.

If a person needs help, all they have to do is show a picture ID and prove that they have a child and need the assistance, Wyatt said. She wanted to make sure that the process was easy and fast because she personally knows how hard and tedious it can be for families to receive the help that is needed.

“It gives people hope that there is good in the world,” Wyatt said of the store. “Years and years ago, I was on welfare for 18 months, and all the stuff you have to go through is hard. We try to make the process really simple.”

As a new addition, the store also allows families to “rent” Halloween costumes, Wyatt said. The full price is paid for the costume initially, but all but $7.50 is refunded if it’s returned in a reasonable amount of time. Winter gear also is now available for customers.

“The kids should be able to enjoy the holiday and not suffer because the parents are having a hard time,” Alexander said.

Wyatt, who also works at Cognitive Connection, said it is rewarding to see how appreciative and shocked a child is when they find out that they get to take something new home.

They also allow people to return or keep the clothes after their child grows out of them, and they are able to come back and pick out new clothes that will fit, Wyatt said.

“That’s the one thing that I think differentiates us between other nonprofits and other people who help, is that when your child is a newborn, you get newborn clothes. In three months, when your child grows, you can come back for free.”

Now that they are a nonprofit, Wyatt said they are trying to get more help by asking companies if they can donate or give discounted prices on items like car seats and diapers. More donations are always needed.

They also ask that, if possible, interested customers call to make an appointment, since the two women take turns running the store. After a customer spends $125, they are given a 20 percent discount. Teachers and service personnel officers also receive a discount.

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The store is located at 3026 N.C. 18, U.S. 64 N, and hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information or to donate, call 828-430-1174 or visit the ReagansKidsStore Facebook page.

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Information from: The News Herald, https://www.morganton.com

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