JAY — The Free Store is filling a community need.

Twelve to 15 bags leave the store on the third floor of St. Rose of Lima Church’s Parish Hall, 1 Church St., each week. Some are grocery bags, others are large trash bags, organizer Julie Taylor said.

“People take two or three bags. Some people come every week,” she said. “There’s an average of 20 or more here each week. It’s wonderful to see the news is getting out.”

The Free Store opened in March and serves the community most Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Regional School Unit 73 teachers Taylor, Tammy Deering and Nancy Anctil are the primary organizers. Denise Acritelli, Julie Thornton, Janet Daigle, Janet Ventrella, Kathryn Ventrella, Kelly Gilbert, Jayne Flagg, Rob Taylor and Marissa Paradis have also helped.

“Most are people associated with the schools. A group of teachers had been doing it at the school (before the formation of RSU 73, when the space they had been using was needed for other things),” Taylor said. “We know the needs of the school children. Those needs extend into the community.”

Rooms are filled with baby, children and adult clothing. Blankets, shoes, boots, outerwear, books and small home goods are sometimes available. A number for assistance (2-1-1), plus hours for the local food pantry and a free soap program are posted. The Rev. Paul Dumais sometimes provides free soup and sandwiches.

Taylor said inventory is replaced by word of mouth, through notices posted at the schools and area churches, and from those who shop at The Free Store.

“People give things they no longer need,” she said. “After the St. Rose Christmas Fair, decorations and items suitable for gifts were left for us. The North Jay Grange sent us winter clothing and boots. They were gone right off.”

The Franklin County Children’s Task Force gave 80 bags of clothing last fall.

“That was a little overwhelming, but we got through it,” Taylor said. “You worry about having so much inventory that it’s not getting out there. That’s just not the case.”

Shopper Amber Leblanc said, “I love this place. It’s a life-saver. We get to dress the way we want to, not what our budgets allow. It changes who you are.”

Anna Crockett said, “I missed it when it was closed. I get things for other people who can’t get here.”

Donations can be dropped off at the Free Store Saturday mornings. Weekdays during school hours, they can be left at either Spruce Mountain Middle or Elementary School.

“It’s a commitment,” Taylor said. “When I’m not there, I’m thinking about it. It’s very rewarding.”

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