3 women will lose jobs when Summerville site shuts down at end of January

SUMMERVILLE — Glenda Atkinson is a 56-year-old widow with multiple sclerosis, and she is about to lose her job.

Atkinson and two other women who work at the Salvation Army's thrift store at 210 E. 5th N. St. are casualties of the organization's restructuring. The store is closing Jan. 31. The merchandise has been marked down, and what doesn't sell will be moved to the store at 4248 Dorchester Road.

They got the word within the past month.

"Sometimes it's worse than others. I keep trying to push. I don't have anybody else to help me pay the bills," Atkinson said Thursday as she stood among the clothes, lamps, furniture and electronics.

Capt. Chris Thornhill, commanding officer for the tri-county area Salvation Army, said the women are not being relocated because he can't absorb their salaries.

The decision to close the store came from the North and South Carolina Divisional Headquarters in Charlotte, he said.

Thornhill said officials in Charlotte wanted to close the store earlier, but he fought to keep it open until the end of January "because it's Christmas and that's just not right. I'm not a heartless troll."

Avis Byarm, emergency disaster and family store development secretary in Charlotte, said Friday she couldn't comment on the closing and that no one else was available.

The thrift stores have struggled with increased competition from other sources and store sales have suffered. Thornhill said he knew a restructuring of the entire thrift program was coming and that the lease was expiring on the Summerville store. It would not have made sense to renew it, he said.

The Salvation Army owns the thrift store buildings on Dorchester Road and in Moncks Corner, he said.

Atkinson, who manages the Summerville store, said those locations are going to be too far for her customers to travel. Many arrive on foot or bicycles, she said.

That's not the case for Elizabeth Carbonaro of Knightsville, but she said she won't drive to Dorchester Road. Carbonaro said the Summerville store is conveniently located, and she shops there several times a week.

"I come here to wind down. I enjoy the friendship and I walk around," she said.

Atkinson said some customers just come in to pass the time.

"They say this is their therapy. I've met so many wonderful people. I guess you could say it's been good therapy for me, too," said Atkinson, whose husband died in 1995.

Atkinson has worked at Salvation Army thrift stores about six and a half years. The other two employees are in their 50s and 60s, but do not rely solely on their incomes from the thrift store.