CHIPLEY — Local bell-ringer Sherry Barefield is taking to the streets in an effort to save Chipley’s Salvation Army Thrift Store, which has been slated for closing by the Panama City headquarters.
Barefield, of Chipley, said she has been a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army for three years and was alarmed to hear the store was closing.
Barefield said she was a familiar face as a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army, and she hoped people would recognize her from her work with the organization and sign her petition.
“The Salvation Army store is there to help people who need the assistance, but if our store closes, there won’t be one left in our area,” Barefield said. “We are circulating a petition, trying to get help saving the store.”
Once the petition campaign is complete, she said she would send down the signatures to the Salvation Army state headquarters in Tampa.
The Salvation Army Thrift Store has been in operation in Chipley for 25 years, Barefield said.
“Washington County is a mostly rural area with a high density of low income residents who will be left without the services of this wonderful organization and the dedicated people who tirelessly and compassionately assist with many needs including providing essential services to help people rehabilitate themselves,” the petition to Tampa headquarters states.
Major Caleb Prieto is commanding officer for the Northwest Florida Salvation Army, but he was out of the office this week and unavailable for comment.
Prieto sent a letter on Jan. 8 informing Manager Trish McCallister that the store would be closed by Jan. 30.
“We have made the difficult decision to close the Chipley Family Thrift Store,” the letter stated. “We have been struggling to keep the store open for a few years, but have come to the conclusion that, due to several factors, it is not economically feasible to keep it open.”
“The Salvation Army is committed to continuing Social Services in Washington County and arrangements are being made to continue services,” according to the letter from Prieto. “As soon as all details are in place, we will release information to the media and community leaders.”
McCallister said she was saddened that the thrift store was being closed. “Now is a time economically this county really needs our services,” she said. She added that the Salvation Army provides clothing to people who have lost everything due to a fire, or who have just gotten out of jail. “Who is going to take over those social services?”
Monday Barefield was going to all the businesses in downtown Chipley, asking for signatures and support. The petition is also available in the thrift store, which is located on Highway 77 in downtown Chipley, and customers may sign to show their support for the store, Barefield said.
“If some business had a building we could use, maybe we could save the store by lowering the overhead, or maybe we could start a separate branch up here,” Barefield said.