Just in time for temperatures to drop and the holiday season to creep closer, the Jesus Place Mission Church Free Store lost about 1,000 toys and racks of winter clothing due to water damage.
"We were just getting ready to bring it down," said Bill Davison, pastor of Jesus Place Mission Church.
The merchandise was soaked from rains that leaked through the store's aging roof. Davison doesn't have insurance for the building, which was donated to the Jesus Place Mission Church to open the store that offers clothing, shoes, books and household supplies to the community free of charge.
The tab for patch work or even replacement could top $5,000. That's a tall order for the organization, which operates almost entirely on donations.
"If we have to do the new roof, the whole thing, that's looking at more money that I could scrape together in a long while," Davison said.
With water damaging the merchandise and structure every time it rains, Davison and Jesus Place volunteers are worried the store will have to close during inclement weather — a time when it's needed most.
"We're only open three hours a day. If we spend an hour or more soaking up that water, we're not going to open that day," said volunteer Ryan Brown. "It hurts the community when we have to close."
Between 600 and 700 people come to the free store every month, Brown said. About 61 percent of the store's visitors come from Granite, 29 percent from Madison and the remainder trickle in from Venice, Mitchell, and the St. Louis area.
"People start lining up at the door before we're open saying 'I need a shirt,' or 'I need a belt, my pants are falling down,'" Brown said. "The little things we do add up for the community."
Anyone can pick up free clothes, shoes and other supplies at the store. In exchange for appliances and large electronics people can spend a few hours volunteering at the store stocking or sorting donations.
The store has become a valuable resource to the region's homeless population Brown said; it is near a bus depot in Downtown Granite City.
"They come to Jesus Place church for breakfast in the morning, then come to us, get lunch at the Community Care Center and then go back to wherever they came from," he said.
Jesus Place has raised about $550 for roof repairs, but Davison said patchwork for the rubber membrane roof will probably cost upwards of $5,000. Surveying the water damage he's seen some wood rot, which could mean the entire roof needs replacement.
"Little by little it's gotten bigger than we can handle," he said. Other than the holes in the roof, Davison said the structure is solid.
If repairs aren't made soon, Davison said the store will likely close sporadically throughout the winter depending on the weather. He said he won't shut the doors permanently.
"Closing is not an option," Davison said. "God told us to open this store. We got it, and now we just have to believe in him to bring us the funds to keep the doors open."