Columbia Nonprofit Aims to Fill Void for Young Families

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COLUMBIA - A nonprofit is spreading its roots into a new space Wednesday in hopes of spreading more assistance to young families in the Boone County area. CoMo Cares opened its first commercial store after nearly a year and a half in business.

The nonprofit aims to help children "thrive, not just survive," and it plans to do so by providing low-cost essentials to families with children younger than five years old. 

The brains behind the organization is Sabrina Lambrecht. Lambrecht was trying to figure out her purpose in life in the beginning of July 2012, when the idea was sparked. "I was in my master's program and I was unhappy about where I was going, what I was doing and then all of a sudden this just popped into my head after a garage sale and I decided I wanted to give these clothes away to kids who need it," Lambrecht said.

By the end of the month, CoMo Cares was up and running out of Lambrecht's home. But months later, the organization grew too big for the basement, "The need is outstanding, we were getting calls, we were flooded with calls everyday. So, the need was just there for us to expand and it was time for us to expand."

The organization revamped a former arcade into its first commercial store at 1301 Vandiver Drive, "Almost a year and a half later, here we are," Lambrecht said. "So it's very exciting."

The store boasts clothes, toys, books and shoes at low costs. Families assisted by Boone County's Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Service (WIC) or food stamps will receive ten percent off, something thousands of families across Boone County will be able to utilize.

"We actually serve almost 2,700 people each month, here just in Boone County," WIC supervisor Erin Harris said. "And that roughly translates into about half of the infants born in Boone County."

Like CoMo Cares, WIC serves families with children five years old and younger. The average family of four must make less than $3,600 a month to qualify for WIC assistance. Despite thousands of people receiving this aid each month, Harris said approximately 47 percent of eligible children are not participating.

Though WIC does provide many necessities like food and health care, Harris said CoMo Cares can help fill a void in the community, "Things like clothing, diapers, even toiletry items when it comes to babies and the infants, children, those types of needs are not met. So hopefully, CoMo Cares can help fill that gap there."

Michelle Thomas is a breast feeding peer counselor at WIC, as well as a board member for CoMo Cares. Thomas said she hopes customers will pay it forward after visiting the store, "Not only is it there as a resource for you whenever you need, but when you're done with your stuff, get it back into that pool to help the other people who are gonna need it."

CoMo Cares is currently in need of batteries, diapers and monetary donations for diapers and wipes. All donations can be dropped off during store hours.

The organization hopes to serve more than 450 children in 2014. In the next few months, Lambrecht plans to launch a rent-a-pump program for breastfeeding mothers who cannot afford a personal pump. In the next few years, she aims to expand to an even bigger facility.