It is often difficult for individuals to watch others struggle with hardship. They often feel the need to help where they can or provide education. Kathy Zwirnmann is that helpful individual. She has watched many struggle over the years, so in 2009, she decided to do something about it. She started what is now named The Warehouse.
Kathy began helping the community by starting a group on Facebook named "Free Stuff Texarkana," where other individuals could post items that they want to get rid of for free. She would often collect the items as well and store them in a storage building.
"I was reaching people online, storing the items at a storage building and delivering with a trailer before I found the building," she said. "I started at the building in 2012."
The Facebook page was getting more and more requests from individuals in need. Kathy knew this group was just the beginning.
The Warehouse was opened on Lake Drive in what used to be the Texarkana Milling and Seed Warehouse.
Kathy created a space where people can come and get what they need for themselves and their families. When she began, she had given a 10-item weekly limit. This was to ensure there was enough for everyone.
The clothing racks and shelves were set up everyday and taken back in and out of the elements for the night.
The Warehouse has grown to fit the building and she has lifted the weekly restriction.
This gives individuals an opportunity to get what they truly need. Kathy has had many donations that include more than clothing - from housewares to furniture and even metal awnings for the volunteers to work underneath.
"Local business, Integrity Metal, donated the awnings for us to use," Kathy said.
Volunteer work has been the key to continuing the mission.
"Volunteers help by sorting donations as they come in," Kathy said. "They wait on customers with special needs, hang clothing, unload donations, clean parking lot, and mow the grass."
Volunteers are always needed.
"I am open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Anyone can come volunteer or talk to me about anything," she said.
Kathy has also worked with local organizations on community service projects. The Warehouse currently helps families with school clothes, school supplies, winter coats, cooking supplies, food and shoes.
"It just takes the burden off of their expenses and finances to let them provide other needs such as gas to get back and forth to work, or medical bills and other expenses," Kathy said.
The Warehouse has had its own hardships through the years, from damage to the items, the building itself and even theft. Despite what they have overcome, nothing could prepare Kathy for the news she got in January. The building she is located in was put up for sale.
"I felt lost. I just didn't know what to do," she said.
Kathy has been paying the rent and utilities for The Warehouse by auctioning off items on a separate Facebook group. Individuals donate items for this auction and they use the money to pay the utilities. This enables the volunteers and community to continue to use The Warehouse as a resource. Some items sell for as little as $5.
Kathy's only hope for saving The Warehouse is to buy it. To do so she will have to raise money and finance it. She needs about $29,000 - half the sales price - to make this happen.
Kathy's continued supporters have donated small amounts here and there. She has started a GoFundMe page to try to get even more help.
"People are contacting me on Facebook or coming by to donate what they can," Kathy said.
It's hard for Kathy to remember all the service projects they have been a part of over the years because there have been so many. They routinely help local nursing facilities with adult diaper briefs and pads as well as socks, scarfs, gowns and pajamas. The Warehouse works closely with the local American Red Cross to provide much needed items after fires or floods.
Kathy still needs $20,000 to reach the required down payment. She continues to persevere despite the odds against her. (For more information about The Warehouse, visit them in person at 303 S. Lake Drive or find them on Facebook.)
Married to husband, Rudy, for 32 years with 3 children.
Retired. Former office manager and personal assistant to the president of Larkotex Co. for 28 years.
Favorite hobby: Spending time with grandkids, deer hunting, and collecting Native American pottery.
The Holy Bible
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Favorite quote: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."