GRAND RAPIDS — Nonprofit In the Image is in the process of moving locations after the city of Grand Rapids bought its aging building along South Division Avenue to relocate a fire station.
The city purchased 1823 and 1815 S. Division Ave. from Matthew 25:40 Heartside, Inc. on Sept. 25 for $806,789, according to property records. The city plans to relocate a nearby Fire Department station to the property. The South Division fire station, at 1734 S. Division Ave., was constructed in 1926 and is in need of significant upgrades that aren’t feasible at the current location, according to city officials.
In the Image, which has operated in Grand Rapids for 30 years, provides clothing and basic household necessities to people in need. The nonprofit runs a program that gives away thousands of new shoes to elementary students before the school year. The group also runs a “free store” that resembles a thrift shop but the items are free.
“We want to make sure this move is economical for us and we’re moving the community’s dollars in a way to keep this streamlined, focused on our mission and elevating our current state,” In the Image Executive Director Bethann Egan told MiBiz.
Construction has started at In The Image’s future location at a 21,000-square-foot building at 4255 Kalamazoo Ave. SE. The nonprofit hopes to move into the new location no later than February 2021, Egan said.
“We’ll be in an entirely new neighborhood, but still serving an area in need,” Egan said. “What this past year (with COVID-19) has really allowed us to do is transition into pop-up shops. We’ll still come back to this neighborhood.”
In the Image had its 32,000-square-foot building evaluated in 2014 but the cost of renovations was out of reach, Egan said. The city approached the nonprofit roughly two years ago about acquiring the land.
“It made sense for us if the community needed another fire station, and this was a secure buyer in our minds,” Egan said. “It took us a couple years to come to that agreement and make sure it was the right move for us.”
The nonprofit had to change its programs this year to maintain operations during the pandemic. Its model switched to letting people in need call or request items online that In the Image would drop off at their residence, Egan said. The organization also started pop-up shops outside the building to ensure socially distanced shopping, she said.
Usually thousands of people come to In the Image for the shoe giveaway program before school starts, but this year the nonprofit selected 10 schools out of the 39 it usually serves that were most in need, Egan said.
“We determined it wasn’t possible to run the program the way we usually do,” Egan said. “This has been a great exercise for us internally to see where the needs of the community are and how to plan for things ahead of time.”
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