Business, C1, Community

Citrus Heights woman opens new thrift shop ministry to help homeless

Kelsee's Purse, Citrus Heights
Ildi Ayers opened up Kelsee’s Purse thrift shop in Citrus Heights several months ago. // Thomas Sullivan

By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Citrus Heights is now home to a nonprofit clothing ministry called Kelsee’s Purse, thanks to the work of a young Romanian-American émigré. Ildi Ayers says she’s proud to make a modest difference in the quality of life of the city’s homeless community, one life at a time.

Her new store opened late last year at 7044 Sunrise Blvd. and is named in recognition of a young, homeless woman named Kelsee, who Ayers befriended on the streets of Citrus Heights.

“Kelsee had become unexpectedly homeless and was learning how difficult it often is to survive day-to-day,” Ayers told The Sentinel in an interview earlier this week. “She welcomed our church’s ministry support to help her get off the street and appreciated the basic toiletries, clothing and personal items we were able to give her.”

The Kelsee’s Purse retail store is incorporated as a nonprofit ministry of Living Water Assembly of God Church, located on Lauppe Lane near Rusch Park.

Ayers is a modest woman of Christian faith, with a bright smile and easy manner. She said her family came to the United States in 1980, trying 67 times to emigrate from the former Communist Romania before being allowed to do so.

Her family sought a better life in the U.S., and she says she loves the sense of community here in Citrus Heights. Under Ayers’ leadership, donations for the homeless increased to a point where a mobile clothing ministry she operated simply outgrew her own garage.

“I wasn’t able to sort out the donations I received. I needed space to sort and store clothing and goods,” said Ayers. “Having the store has been a blessing to be able to do that.”

New inventory arrives weekly. The goal of the thrift shop is to support the ministry, Ayers said, “but it takes time to build a business.”

How many people has Kelsee’s Purse helped since opening? Ayers said she knows of at least 50 to 60 people whom have received clothing and other personal items through the church ministry program. “We try to build relationships with the people who contact us for help. There are just so many in need.”

Ayers said members of the church visit the homeless throughout Citrus Heights once a week to drop off clothing and personal items as they serve a hot meal and offer personal testimony of their faith. The church has a van which delivers clothing, blankets, hygiene products and other items to people in need.

Retail sales so far have been brisk, Ayers said. “Our prices are very reasonable, and we welcome the public to come in and just have a look around.”

She said her church was able to lease the retail space for free for the first three months, but is now relying on donations and retail sales to cover the rent. The church has long had a homeless outreach program which it wants to continue, Ayers said.

“We need and welcome the financial support of our community,” she said, noting that donations can be made at the store, or through her church’s website. Clean men’s, women’s and children’s clothes are always in need, she said. Donations of personal toiletries including toothbrushes and toothpaste are welcomed. Walk-in donations of clothing, children’s toys, and small kitchen appliances are also accepted.

“The donation of clean sleeping bags, gloves, beanies, bedding and pillows in good condition, are always appreciated,” Ayers said.

Kelsee’s Purse is open Tuesday through Friday, from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Additional information about the thrift shop can be found on a Facebook business page Ayers maintains. Those interested in helping or donating can also contact Ayers at (916) 213-1377, or ildi@livingwaterag.com.

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Kelsee's Purse
Clothing and other items are available inside Kelsee’s Purse thrift shop in Citrus Heights. // Thomas Sullivan