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Lotus Treasures now open

New WC thrift shop to help support Lotus Community Project

-Messenger photo by Anne Blankenship
Ashley Bishop and Ashley Vaala sort through some of the women’s clothing that will be on display at the new Lotus Treasurer store, located at 620 Second St. in Webster City. The thrift shop opened on Friday and will offer a wide selection of clothing, shoes, outerwear, accessories, furniture, home decor and gift items. All of the proceeds from the store will go to support the Lotus Community Project, a homeless shelter for women and children.

WEBSTER CITY — A new shop in downtown Webster City is offering a wide array of treasures and bargains, just in time for the start of the Christmas shopping season. The shop is also helping to fund the efforts of the Lotus Community Project, a homeless shelter for women and children and a transitional living house in Webster County.

Lotus Treasures, a thrift shop, opened at 620 Second St. in Webster City on Friday.

Ashley Vaala, executive director of the Lotus Community Project, and Ashley Bishop have been working diligently to get boxes of donations unpacked and displayed. The store will offer shoppers furniture, home decor, clothing, shoes, outerwear and accessories. Shoppers will also find Christmas decor and gift items.

Many of the items are gently used, donated by community members. But other pieces are brand new.

“We had a boutique donate all of this new clothing,” Vaala said, pointing to a wall of women’s tops and dresses. “We’ve got so many cute things.”

— Messenger photo by Anne Blankenship
Customers will also find Christmas decor and gift items at Lotus Treasures in downtown Webster City. Proceeds from the shop benefit a homeless shelter for women and children, and a transitional living home.

Customers will also find Christmas decor and gift items at Lotus Treasures in downtown Webster City. Proceeds from the shop benefit a homeless shelter for women and children, and a transitional living home.

All of the proceeds from the business will go directly to support the homeless shelter.

Vaala said she learned about the lack of resources for homeless women in north central Iowa when she worked for different community service agencies in the area. In 2017, she decided there needed to be a homeless shelter that would serve women and children. She took some time off from work and started job shadowing at other Iowa shelters.

By April 2017, she quit her full-time job at the Berryhill Center to begin the women’s shelter project. A board of directors was formed and all of the paperwork to create a 501(c)3 designation was filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

Nearly $200,000 was raised to get the project rolling in 2018. The former St. John’s Lutheran Church in Webster County and its parsonage were donated by Iowa West District Missouri Lutheran Synod in September 2018.

They put about $150,000 in renovations, turning the church into a comfortable shelter for women.

The shelter opened for business in January 2019.

Last year, the shelter served about 150 women and children.

“That’s a good solid number to start with,” she said.

The shelter serves the six county area of Webster, Hamilton, Wright, Humboldt, Pocahontas and Calhoun counties. The daily census may change from time to time, depending upon the needs of the people they are serving.

“We might have three twin beds in a room for three single women, or we might have a mom with two kids in there,” she said.

The organization has now remodeled the parsonage to serve as a transitional living home, with room for five single employed women.

The idea for the store came as Vaala was shadowing at the Beacon of Hope shelter in Fort Dodge. That organization operates a successful thrift store in Fort Dodge.

“They put a lot of effort into that store and keeping it up in the community,” she said. “It made sense for us to do that here.”

Initially, Vaala said she hoped to find a store in Eagle Grove, but was unable to find a suitable building.

“We looked here in Webster City and quickly found a store,” she said. “This is really the perfect location for us. We can rent and not have to worry about buying, especially during 2020.”

Donations can be made at the shelter, where they are processed for the store. She said that any clothing items donated must be free of stains and holes. Donations of furniture, home decor and other items are also welcome, according to Vaala.

Lotus Treasures will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

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