MASTIC, N.Y. -- People on Long Island struggling to make ends meet have been lining up for a new general store where everything inside is free.
The Mastic General Store Free Pantry stocks much more than just food.
It's like walking into an old-fashioned country general store. The only difference? There are no price tags; everything is free.
Debbie Loesch, who beat addiction and founded Angels of Long Island, is the real life angel who came up with this vision -- a free everything store where no one needs to feel shame.
"We have everything a grocery store has but a cash register," she said.
Her general store stocks batteries and school supplies, cleaning products, paper and personal hygiene items. There's fresh produce, eggs and meat, and baked goods -- all free, supplies limited, for Long Islanders in need.
"Kids are going to school being made fun of because they might have not the best hygiene. Their clothes are dirty, and sometimes it's simple, that Mom and Dad just can't afford laundry soap, so we try to supply all the basic needs," Loesch said.
It's a blessing for Jennifer Owen, a single mother of four, formerly homeless.
"To be able to get food, laundry soap. Everything is going up. We have to do laundry for our kids. Everybody I'm sure, you know, to some degree needs help with shampoo, soap, little things like that we don't-- that people take for granted," she said.
Customers like her can come once a month. The store opened last week to long lines.
They may also receive advising to be matched with services.
"We want to find out what are the issues? Is it education? Is it mental health?" said Lavonia Scaggs, owner of the Empowerment Center.
They leave with more than just bags of necessities.
"It's not so much the stuff, it's the validation. Somebody's hearing them. They're struggling. They are hurting, so many people are hurting right now," Loesch said.
The General Store also needs helpers. Donations are accepted to keep shelves stocked after 200 people shopped there in its first two days.
The General Store is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Its donations are accepted by Angels of Long Island.
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