By John Ramos

HEALDSBURG (KPIX 5) — There’s a unique new store in wine country dedicated to fire victims.

Every item inside is free.

The Free Store is located near Highway 101 in Healdsburg and it won’t be closing down anytime soon.

When we hear that someone lost everything in the fires our focus is usually on the house itself, but it is the stuff in the house that makes life possible.

“They left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back…” said Ariel Kelley, a resident of Healdsburg.

Luckily, people like Kelley remember that. So when a nice man offered the use of his 14,000 square foot warehouse, Kelley gathered donated goods and opened a kind of pop-up thrift store for fire victims, with one notable difference.

Everything in the store is free.

Kelley, the creator of Healdsburg Free Store said, “We hand them a shopping bag and we say, go shop, grab whatever you need and if there’s anything you didn’t find in the store, come write it down, make your little wish list and we’ll call you later when we find it.”

That’s right, they even take special requests.

Kelley puts out a call to the 10,000 members of her mom’s group “…and then wishes just start happening!” she said.

The store carries items that most people had to leave behind: clothing, shoes, toiletries, even business suits. All the little things of everyday life.

On Monday afternoon, Kelley’s friends Heidi Mayon and Kim Lyons, drove all the way from Santa Cruz with hospital blankets.

“The simplest things are missing,” Mayon said.

“And hopefully, [with] something like this, those needs are going to be met,”said Lyons.

And a music producer who calls himself “Larry The Hat” dropped off items from Mill Valley including kids’ bikes and $2,000 worth of gift cards.

Larry “The Hat” Lautzker said, “These folks have lost everything.  All of the things that we’ve been taking for granted all our lives, are gone.”

The Free Store doesn’t have the staff to accept random, drive-up donations from the public, but they encourage people to contact their Facebook page if they want to help continue this effort for the long haul.

Kelley’s hope is that the store will help out those folks who are struggling right now as well as those who may find themselves struggling in the many months after the fires are extinguished.

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