It's been two months since the Sioux Falls Salvation Army closed its Thrift Store on North Cliff because of dwindling sales. But if the Salvation Army has it's way, the building won't sit empty for long. It's planning on moving many of its social services offices into the vacant space next door.
Once a month, Sioux Falls seniors gather in the Salvation Army gym to snack and socialize.
"It's just a fun get-together. And we always have lots of good food," Lou Lueth of Sioux Falls said.
The Salvation Army provides the main course, while many of the seniors furnish the treats.
"That's the funnest thing. I make always a dessert, they always look for my big pan. What did you bring today," Lueth said.
The program called "Senior Neighbors," fills a void for the elderly living on the east side of Sioux Falls.
"There's not many places on this side of town that people can go to get together," Lueth said.
But now Senior Neighbors may be on the move to make way for a younger set. The Salvation Army is looking at relocating the program to its former Thrift Store across the street. The move would free-up the gym for more kids to take part in activities like basketball and volleyball. The Salvation Army also wants to get the wheels in motion for roller skating nights.
"I think that that's something missing. Kids use video games more, we need more activities where they're doing things, moving," Major Betty Bender of the Salvation Army said.
It's not just gym space that's in-demand. The Salvation Army is feeling the squeeze of crowded offices.
"We have some staff who really don't have an office, we use a classroom and have a phone in there so we have multiple use of that area," Bender said.
The makeshift offices would give way to permanent work spaces at the old thrift store. That would allow the Salvation Army to serve more clients, more efficiently.
"We try our best to help them understand that when they come to the Salvation Army, we're in it with them. It's no longer them alone," caseworker Gee-Gee Kitzler said.
There are times when the line of people waiting to see the Salvation Army caseworker stretches all the way down to the end of the hallway.
"It can be hard for people coming here for something else to get through the crowd in the waiting area. And then sometimes we run out of chairs and we have to keep putting them farther down the hall," Bender said.
The hope is that moving the waiting area to the old thrift store would not only provide clients with more room, but also more privacy. The changes may still be months away, but those in the Senior Neighbors program have mixed feelings about making the move next door.
"I'm sure that they'll have it fixed up nice over there, I don't know about the parking, if will be as good parking," Lueth said.
But the Salvation Army wants to turn the negative of closing its thrift store into a positive by expanding its social services and making more people feel welcome here.
"This is kind of home," Lueth said.
The old thrift store would also be equipped with kitchen facilities to help with feeding programs for low-income families and the elderly.