STOCKTON (CBS13) — A local nonprofit is reeling after a fire thought to have been caused by arson closed down the thrift shop they use for revenue.

“This is a very big shop, at least 75 percent of our income,” said Beverly Lewis-Clarke, the president of The Assistance League in Stockton.

The organization fears the weeks-long closure will be a major setback to local children in need of assistance. In addition, the clothes and furniture they planned to sell may also be a loss.

“If they’re considered contaminated then they’ll have to be tossed,” Lewis-Clarke said.

A fire broke out in front of their store. Surveillance video shows a person walk by and pick up a scrap off the ground. He disappears for a minute and leaves. Moments later the building catches fire and smokes until a passerby stops and calls for help.

“So this good Samaritan whoever you are you saved us from the building going up,” Lewis-Clarke exclaimed.

The smoke damage was extensive. The inventory may be a loss, but the organization made up of nearly 100 volunteers say it’s a blessing it wasn’t worse.

Each year the group is able to dress nearly 1,200 children with brand new back to school clothes.

“There’s a big need in this city, a big need,” she said. “These kids have never had new clothes, ever.”

Those donations were in a different building and unaffected.

“For them to have new clothes, the confidence it builds in them,” Lewis-Clarke said. “I think we would all be crying right now if this would’ve gotten burned and damaged.”

It’s an organization helping to serve the underserved hoping the break-ins, thefts, and now arson are stopped for the sake of Stockton’s youth.

The big concern now is just how long it’s going to take to repair the building.

Right now they are not accepting donations but looking for a location to be able to replenish the items that were contaminated during the fire.


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