Columbia River PUD helps fund improvements to nonprofit thrift store to benefit senior center

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Kaylee Holmes works the register at Top Notch Thrift Store in St. Helens. The thrift store, which recently received a small grant from Columbia River PUD, benefits the St. Helens Senior Center.A thrift store in St. Helens may be the answer to helping more seniors across south Columbia County.

The St. Helens Senior Center recently got a small, but impactful, $1,774 grant from the Columbia River People's Utility District to use toward improvements at the Top Notch Thrift Store.

Grant money came from the PUD's new economic development grant program to help expand the sales floor of the store in the Bond Plaza on Columbia Boulevard.

Top Notch operates as a fundraiser to benefit the St. Helens Senior Center.

Staff say making adjustments to the store's layout will help expand a section for children's clothing, which can be hard to come by in St. Helens.

"The vision for this project is to turn one of our storage areas into additional sales floor, specifically a children's department," a grant application states.

The floor space expansion is expected to help the store boost sales, which in turn helps run programs for seniors. Elderly residents across the county are relying on the St. Helens Senior Center now more than ever.

In addition to running its own Meals on Wheels program, the center recently took on meal preparation for the Scappoose Senior Center's meal delivery program, when the program in Scappoose didn't have the means to keep running.

Scappoose serves roughly 40 seniors each day.

Kathy Innocenti manages Top Notch Thrift Store.

She spoke on behalf of Top Notch and the senior cen-

ter during a July 17 PUD meeting. Innocenti

"In the process of writing this, the Scappoose Senior Center stopped doing Meals on Wheels in their community because of lack of funds, so the St. Helens Senior Center took that over," Innocenti told PUD directors during the board meeting. "We want to provide them with as much funding as we possibly can to help in that endeavor."

Now, Meals on Wheels meals for both centers are prepared in St. Helens, with a portion delivered to Scappoose before getting distributed by volunteers to home-bound seniors.

The senior center is the second recipient of a grant from the PUD since the utility district launched its new economic development program in April. Earlier this year, the St. Helens Economic Development Corp. was the first recipient of the new program.

The program provides small grants to nonprofit organizations that spur economic development or long-term economic growth in the county in some capacity.

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