Like many holiday shopping destinations, the aisles of the Community Resource Center along Chapanoke Road were lined Wednesday morning with shoppers picking intently through clothing, household wares, holiday trinkets and food.
Price was not an issue for these shoppers, however, as all the items on the shelves were free and visitors could take away as much as they could carry.
Since 2001, the center has provided this unique retailing experience for low-income people who can't afford basic necessities or maybe just a gift for a child.
But this community resource may soon be gone.
The center's landlord has decided not to extend its lease beyond Jan. 15, meaning it must relocate or close.
The timing could not have been worse, said Linda Williams, executive director of the nonprofit organization With Love from Jesus, which operates the center. While the center is busy year-round, helping about 2,500 people a month, it is swamped during the holiday season as demand for warm clothing, hot food and fuel increases.
With a permanent staff of eight employees, Williams said the center cannot continue to serve the poor while preparing to move out.
"There's no way we can continue through the holidays and be out by the 15th," she said.
So Williams and her staff have decided to continue operating while doing what they do best: praying that a solution can be found by Jan. 15.
The center moved to Chapanoke Road 13 months ago. It rents 20,000 square feet in a run-down space that lacks central air conditioning and heat.
Williams said the landlord, Parker Lincoln Commercial Realty, has been extremely gracious, renting the space on a month-to-month basis for well below market value. She said the center would like to stay in the building until it is sold or somehow raise the $8 million it would need to buy the building.
But Kenny Fuller of Parker Lincoln said that the company has no immediate plans to sell the building and that it has groups interested in leasing the property, several of which are proposing "fast-paced projects."
Fuller said the company is searching for ways to help the center, by either adding a few days to its lease or helping it find another location.
"We're very glad and proud this company has been able to help out for this long," he said. "We're in the real estate business, and that's why we were blessed enough to help them."
The center is reluctant to move because its current space is ideal. In the heart of Wake County, it is close to low-income housing and a bus line. Donated goods can be dropped off in back, and shoppers can be funneled in one front entrance and out another.
The center is open to the public four days a week, and items on its shelves change constantly. The center owns four vehicles that regularly visit merchants such as Food Lion, Harris Teeter and Dollar General to pick up discontinued, damaged or unwanted items.
On Wednesday, shoppers were a mix of the elderly, the working poor and the disabled. Almost all operated on tight, fixed incomes.
Ludy Fuentes, 28, of Raleigh searched through shelves of Christmas decorations for a present for her 7-year-old daughter, Jefferson. Fuentes said her husband works at International House of Pancakes and she stops by the center every two weeks.
Mary E. Brockington, 71, of Raleigh said she lives on her monthly $586 Social Security check and visits the center every couple of months.
Brockington had heard about the center possibly closing, but, like the center's staff, she was confident things would work out.
Clutching a housecoat she had found for herself, she said, "I feel like God's going to provide."
Staff writer David Bracken can be reached at 829-4548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.