Edna Welsheimer never thought she’d have to lay off 12 staff members in one week.
And now she wonders if she can keep Gila County’s only domestic violence shelter open.
“We’re down to bare bones,” said Welsheimer.
The financial meltdown for Time Out started the week of March 16 when customers stopped coming to the Time Out Thrift Store, which pays many of the bills for the shelter.
On March 16, the store brought in less than $300.
“Which is unusual,” said Welsheimer.
By March 17, the store had $19 in the till.
“Wednesday I had to take a good look at the books. I sat here and cried, ‘I have to lay everybody off, I have no choice,’” she said.
The thrift store employees took the news in a way “so warm and loving” it broke her heart.
“I almost wish they had yelled or gotten upset.” Instead, they told Welsheimer they would hold on and wait until things got better.
The rest of the Time Out staff have reduced their work week by a day or taken a 22% pay cut.
Welsheimer is painfully aware other businesses are also struggling.
“We know every mom and pop shop in town is going through the same thing,” she said. “Our hearts go out to them.”
Welsheimer must keep the shelter open or lose grant money.
“We have 24 people, including children,” she said. “When I look at their little faces, they have to have their needs met.”
Welsheimer said she’s only looking two weeks into the future because she does not know how she will feed the residents if something doesn’t change soon.
Normal support systems are gone.
“Walmart has been a resource forever,” said Welsheimer.
Walmart supports the national Feeding America program. Through that program, Time Out received donations of expiring foods.
But hoarders have cleaned out the grocery store shelves. By Wednesday, when Time Out staff showed up for the excess food, Walmart had none to spare.
Then her stash of diapers dried up. Soon she’ll run out of soap and cleaning supplies.
“Our basics are dwindling, too. My hands are tied,” said Welsheimer. “I’ve never experienced this much. I’ve been through a few things, but nothing like this.”
Nor have her clients.
“When the economy is hit really hard, it causes anger in the home because they say, ‘I don’t have food for the children!’” said Welsheimer.
Welsheimer has applied for emergency grants to keep the lights on, but those take time — if approved at all.
She has also reached out to the Facebook group Payson AZ Community Crisis Relief.
Already, they have offered paper towels and toilet paper.
Another local donor called the shelter with enough diapers to avert disaster.
Welsheimer says she will take it day by day.
“Somehow, we will make it,” she said.