CoMo Cares Offers Cheaper Alternatives for Children

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COLUMBIA - The holiday season is well underway, and time is slowly running out for needy families saving up for the occasion.

Sabrina Lambrecht runs CoMo Cares, a discount facility selling items for children five years old and younger. Lambrecht said she knows what families are going through.

"I've been there, I know how these families feel," Lambrecht said. "I was laid off from my job about four years ago. I was a property manager, and I really didn't have any future plans. I was upset, didn't know where I was going with my life. I had to apply for government assistance, food stamps."

Lambrecht explained her husband was the only one in her family who worked after she got laid off. She said it was financially difficult for her to job search and be able to afford a babysitter. That is when she got the idea to start something from home.

"It all started in my own basement--working with partner agencies and families who needed things," Lambrecht said. "I'd gather things [like clothes, toys and diapers] and deliver them to the family. But now we're here at the resource center and able to serve so many more people."

CoMo Cares held a grand opening Saturday, Dec. 7 for the non profit's first official location. The resource center contains boys' and girls' clothing, puzzles, books, furniture, diapers, baby food and other necessities for children.

Single mother Mercedes Dennis of Centralia lost her job almost a year ago and is trying to find time to look for another. She said being a single mother makes the process more difficult than what she expected.

"It's hard to find a job that is going to work around my toddler's schedule," said Dennis. "You know, I want to further my education. I have bills; we need the money. It's so difficult to give my child the Christmas he deserves when I have no job to help pay for it."

Dennis said her three-year-old son is getting older, and he's looking for more expensive things.

"He likes Cars, he likes Thomas and Friends," Dennis said. "But, those things are expensive at the store. I usually either have to let him down or go to a cheaper, knock-off alternative. I think having a place like CoMo Cares will really have a positive effect on our family this Christmas. For that, I'm grateful."

Jerald Stevens, a CoMo Cares customer, said he thinks CoMo Cares can really help benefit families in need, especially for the children.

"I'm really excited about it," Stevens said. "It's going to give people the opportunity to do things they couldn't normally do for their children. It's going to give them a better option."

Lambrecht said CoMo Cares gives 10 percent off to families affiliated with the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) or assisted by food stamps. In 2014, CoMo Cares will also be working with the Voluntary Action Center, Parents as Teachers and Love Inc. CoMo Cares has monetary vouchers at each of these locations around Columbia to help its customers with any additional assistance.

"Everyone says I'm an amazing person, but I don't feel any different than I did [before CoMo Cares]," Lambrecht said. "I'm just doing something I love to do, and I'm helping children. And, that's our goal--to help out as much as we can."

The resource center is located at 1301 Vandiver Drive and is always taking donations. Donations can be dropped off at the new facility during store hours.

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