Shaunna Lamontagne, right, owner of River Valley Free Store, and resource volunteer Shannon Glover stand next to adult clothing at the Mexico store. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

MEXICO — The River Valley Free Store has reopened at its new location at 3 Recreation Drive, upstairs over the Police Department.

Shaunna Lamontagne had operated the store out of her basement in Rumford for the past year.

It’s a big change to have three rooms and an office now.

“It’s amazing when your dreams turn into reality,” she said. “I never thought I’d get to where I am today. I’m beyond thankful to the town manager and selectmen of the community for helping me get this far. It’s not me, it’s the community that makes this program work.”

Selectmen voted unanimously Dec. 21 to offer the space for an indefinite period.

“She needed the space and we had something available, so we made it so she could have it,” Town Manager Raquel Welch said. “It’s a good service that she’s providing for the residents. We have a lot of families that are in need.”

Selectman TJ Williams is raising money to support the store, donating all of it for supplies, shelving units and other materials and services to make sure those most in need are supported.

To donate, go to their page on PayPal, which you can find here.

Lamontagne said, “We need a vacuum, trash cans and clothes racks. Other than that, we’re ready. I’m excited to be able to help the community.”

Volunteers include Shannon Glover, Debbie DeRoche, Linda Courtney and Terry Knickerbocker. They welcome others.

“We have a system where you have paperwork you have to fill out when you first come, kind of like a food pantry when you sign up,” Lamontagne said. “You can come twice a week. Inventory will change daily.”

Part of the agreement patrons sign prohibits them from selling goods they get from the store. “And if they do, they will be banished from the Free Store,” Lamontagne said.

The store keeps a list for larger items such as beds and couches, noting who has them and where they are located. “Then someone can pick them up as opposed to us trying to bring those big items into the store,” she said.

Years ago, Margaret McNeal operated a free store started by her mother, the late Dot Sanchas. Lamontagne volunteered there, learning about the needs of the community.

“It was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

“People struggle, and I struggle,” Lamontagne said. “There was one Christmas when my kids were age 6 and 9, and I was going to have to tell them that Santa wasn’t coming.”

Her voice quivering, she said, “Santa came through from the community. And that was huge for me.”

After that, she vowed she was going to have her own free store.

The River Valley Free Store is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

Donations will be accepted at the site from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays.

Masks are mandatory, with a limit of five shoppers at a time.

FMI: visit the River Valley Free Store on Facebook.

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