PHILMONT — The Philmont Free Store is looking for a permanent home.

The Philmont Free Store announced its campaign to secure a sustainable location for its community- and volunteer-driven mutual-aid project, which makes free food, toiletries, clothing and household items available in the Village of Philmont.

The store began in March 2020 as an ad-hoc response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Free Store volunteer Heath Iverson said. It is a volunteer partnership of neighbors and local farms and businesses who believe everyone should have access to the necessities for a dignified life regardless of the ability to pay, Iverson said.

“At first it was just sort of a box of non-perishable food outside my office space at the Purpose Cooperative on Main Street,” Iverson said. “It was really just a box that people in the community could put food in or take food from, and it grew from there.”

The Free Store moved into a donated space in February 2021 and is located at 104 Main St. in Philmont.

“The landlord is letting us use a storefront that has been vacant for years,” Iverson said. “And since then it’s grown into a big mutual-aid project. There’s a dozen core volunteers in the village and we partner with farms and other food banks and individuals who bring us donations of food, toiletries, clothing, household stuff and we have permission to stay at our current location rent-free until this November, at which point the landlord is going to ask to negotiate with us for a rental fee.”

The Free Store announced it is searching for alternative locations in the village and is appealing for monetary donations for the rental costs of a permanent home. Iverso said paying rent would not be ideal for the store.

“We don’t know if that’s something we would be able to cover, or if our best option right now is to identify ... maybe there’s another angel donor out there. There’s a lot of empty retail space in Philmont,” Iverson said. “We wanted to put out there that we are looking either for a new space in the village or to fund raise to stay at our current space.”

The current space is not heated, Iverson said, and potentially paying rent would necessitate purchasing heaters and covering electric costs to run them.

“We started as a response to COVID, initially, but it’s definitely become more than that,” Iverson said. “We’re sort of creating a space for the community. There’s no bar to access or participation; if people need food, people need just to talk.”

Rent at the current location would cost about $6,000 per year, Iverson said, but it would not be their ideal situation.

“So far we’ve been able to manage things ad-hoc in a way,” Iverson said. “One of the sort of unspoken principals of what we’re doing is we’re trying to proceed in ways that are sort of alternative to the market or alternative to profit-based models. So paying a landlord market rent is not ideal for us but if it becomes a necessity, if we can raise the money, we’d like to have this resource for the community.”

The store gets about 200 visits per week, Iverson said.

The store welcomes donations of fresh and non-perishable foods as well as used clothing, toys and books. Donation drop-offs can be made at 104 Main St., in Philmont by arrangement. For details on making a financial contribution to the Free Store, visit @philmontfreestore on Facebook or Instagram.

The store hosts monthly volunteer training sessions. The next session is Oct. 3 from 3-5p.m. If you would like to attend and get involved, contact philmontfreestore@gmail.com

The Free Store is open daily, with hours available weekly on Facebook and Instagram.

“We really like to stress the motto that our core belief is that people should be able to come and take whatever it is that they need,and give back, weather that’s through volunteering or donations or good will,” Iverson said. “Take what you need, give what you can, is sort of our motto, and that’s something I think everyone that’s been drawn to the project is really kind of proud of.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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