GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — After serving the Heartside Community for the past two decades, In The Image is moving. The non-profit sold its building located at 1823 S Division to the City of Grand Rapids, to build a fire station.
"We evaluated our very old aging buildings for several years. That started in 2014 and 2015. We made the decision to look and see what our options were and they weren't readily available, at that point, so we decided to table it, put some money into that aging building and kind of go from there," says Bethann Egan, executive director of In The Image.
"I specifically said, unless somebody comes knocking at our door, we're gonna hold off and do some maintenance work on this building, but literally somebody came knocking on our door. So who came knocking? Well, the City of Grand Rapids identified that particular parcel as the perfect place to build a new fire station. And, so they offered us a really, really beneficial deal."
Since it was founded nearly 30 years ago, In The Image has been in the Heartside District. It opened its first Free Store in 1988 before moving to the South Division location, 2 decades ago.
Egan says the number one goal has been to find a new location that allows them to serve the community in the same impactful way they always have.
"So, the majority of our clients are making an annual income of at $10,000 and below, so they're definitely looking to help meet the needs of their personal basic items, personal hygiene products, baby basics clothing, and you're talking just really basic household items that people are coming to look for at In The Image," says Egan. "We know that with our move, we're moving out of high-need neighborhood. There are still high needs in a new neighborhood that we are in. So, what we want to make sure we do is visit the old neighborhoods that we have been in, in the past."
Egan says they have successfully launched a new Pop-Up Shop Program, which allows them to take the Free Store on the road.
"We were able to go right down into the Heartside area and unload a bunch of items for people, as they requested them, and be able to provide exactly what they needed right then and there," she says. "So, we plan to continue to do that and make sure that we're not leaving anyone behind. We want to meet the need, where the need is."
The new building, located at 4255 Kalamazoo SE, is about 14,000 square feet smaller. However, Egan says it meets their needs perfectly and will allow them to expand services.
"The old location really had a warehouse feeling, so you didn't have that store like feeling that we're really going for for our clients. We really wanted a space that when someone walked in with just the weight of the world on their shoulders, they could feel like they were walking into a dignified location that they could find exactly what they're looking for and be greeted with a smile all at the same time," said Egan. "Our mission is to provide hope, dignity and respect through the best shopping experience money does not have to buy. So, you don't actually have to pay anything."
In addition to its Free Store, where clients can shop for basic necessities like personal hygiene items and toiletries, clothing, shoes, and household items, In The Image operates a Shoes Help Our Elementary Students (S.H.O.E.S.) program, which serves 39 elementary schools in Kent County, providing students with a new pair of back-to-school shoes each Fall.
Other programs include its Brian's Basic Needs Room and pandemic-related emergency services program.
The organization hopes to reopen their Donation Center by mid-March. However, it will continue to provide its Emergency Services.
Egan says in addition to moving, they have launched a capital campaign that will allow them to raise the funds necessary to finish the new building through their Building Hope Capital Campaign. The non-profit is looking to raise an additional $70,000 dollars of its overall $120,000 goal.
More information on In The Image can be found here.
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