In the mid 1980s, passionate volunteers saw the need for clothing, shoes and coats to be provided for their unhoused neighbors in downtown Grand Rapids. A donation area was setup in the basement of a local Heartside District church, with leaky ceilings and dim lighting. Volunteers coordinated the donations and placed them out for the local homeless and struggling folks, always serving with dignity and respect. As the need expanded, the clothing bank quickly outgrew the damp basement. A grant of just $5,000 allowed In The Image (ITI) to become an official 501(c)3 non-profit in1993.
In The Image moved into a store front building with duct taped racks and make-shift shelves. Areas residents lined up at the doors to find what they needed each day. Volunteers and staff would greet each person, helping them find a new coat, a blanket to keep them warm at night, or a quality pair of shoes to protect their feet. As word spread about our growing non-profit, more individuals, churches, schools, companies, and even consignment shops helped to fill the racks and shelves. Again, In The Image was expanding and needed a larger facility to house the growing programs.
ITI spent roughly 10 years residing in The Harris Building on Division. Then moved to a larger location 1823 S. Division Avenue, and finally relocated to 4255 Kalamazoo Avenue in 2021 where it currently resides. With each move, In The Image reached new populations of people to serve. The addition of the SHOES Program in 1996 allowed us to serve elementary students with free back to school shoes. In the 27 years since the program's inception, more than 100, 100 pairs of shoes have been provided. More recently, ITI added Pop-up Shops as an opportunity to take items out into the community and meet people where they are, removing the barrier of transportation to have ones needs met.
Today, In The Image serves thousands of individuals and families by meeting basic needs - clothing, shoes, pots, pans, dressers, coats, toys, books, hygiene items, etc. - all at no cost. Only new and gently used items are offered in the Free Store. Our team members and volunteers work diligently to process incoming items and prepare them for our shoppers. The Free Store allows for those in need to shop without judgment or the requirement to divulge the details of the difficult situation in which they've found themselves. We want to offer the best we can to our shoppers, and this is all made possible by our community of volunteers and donors who continue to make our programs a success.
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