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Nations Association charity's thrift store to close

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Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Nations Association charity's thrift store to close

By Matt Grant. CREATED Jan 1, 2013

FORT MYERS - A southwest Florida charity known for helping so many others is needing help of its own.

The Nations Association can no longer afford to keep its thrift store open and its closing could hurt the community, according to the charity's founder.

At the Family Store on Palm Beach Boulevard the sign says they're open for business. But it won't be for much longer.

"This was my dream," said the charity's founder Rev. Israel Suarez.

For 35 years, Suarez has been a community champion. In 2011, he marched in the rain to protest drugs and gangs. He fought to save Tice Elementary School from closing.

Now he's trying to save his thrift store.

"I really care for the community," said Suarez. "From the day one I arrive here, I care for this community. And I know our community needs help. That's why I feel God put me here."

For the past two years, Suarez has been selling donated clothes and furniture at low cost. The money raised goes to the Nations Association which provides camp opportunities and scholarships for kids.

The charity also feeds tens of thousands of needy families.

Last June, Suarez told Fox 4 that his store was in danger of closing.

"We need people that can help us," he said at the time.

With his lease up, a new tenant is offering to pay more money. Suarez says he has until the end of the month to come up with at least $60,000 to stay open another year, or more than $600,000 to buy the building.

He can't afford either option.

"I can't," he said, "that's why I'm going."

The landlord tells Fox 4 that he was paying out of his own pocket to supplement Suarez's rent, which was a percentage of the money he made.

From a business perspective the landlord says he can't afford to do that anymore.

Suarez is holding a clearance sale hoping a miracle will keep his store and his dream to keep helping families alive.

"Everything," said Suarez, "is in God's hands."

If Suarez has to shutter the business, he says he will still keep his charity and soup kitchens running. Much of the operating budget for the charity comes from the thrift shop.

Read more about Nations Association

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com