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Food Distribution

Volunteers unload sacks of potatoes outside Poverty Resistance in Casper in November. Mary Ann Budenske, who has operated Poverty Resistance for nearly 27 years, said she is considering giving up the anti-poverty program after being cited for multiple city fire and building code violations.

On Tuesday afternoon, Candice Frazier browsed through the clothing shelves of Poverty Resistance with her husband and two children.

She has shopped at the thrift store at 450 S. Wolcott St. since her family moved to Casper from the West Coast about a year ago and said it’s helped with food and clothes purchases.

“I think the community would really be missing out if the store was to close in any way,” she said.

Her husband, Bill Gibson, said there weren’t stores like Poverty Resistance where they came from. People who were struggling did so alone. Gibson said he wished he could do more to assist the thrift store and food pantry because of the support it’s given him and his family.

“We somewhat lean on them,” he said.

The future of the nonprofit is uncertain in the wake of six citations for various building and fire code violations that were delivered Monday afternoon.

Mary Ann Budenske, who has operated Poverty Resistance for nearly 27 years, said she’s not sure if she has the money or motivation to continue. Officers have often visited the store to give warnings, citing such things as fire-exit obstructions and the hazardous use of space heaters.

“I’m pretty much thinking I want to close forever, although I’m getting a lot of pressure from people to keep fighting this out,” Budenske said. She has supported the store with her own funds over the years.

Budenske estimates it would cost at least $20,000 to meet the city’s electrical requirements, which include new exit lighting and central heating.

She rents the building for the store, and government money or grants are not a likely solution. “No grant people in town, or anywhere in the country, will give you money to rehab a building that you don’t own that’s not owned by the nonprofit,” she said.

The summons Budenske was served on Monday cited her for change of use or occupancy from mercantile to residential, exit obstruction, fire extinguisher maintenance, electric panel clearance, storage and electrical hazard.

The date of the violations was Jan. 24. Budenske said she has made an effort to comply with the codes, such as keeping fire exits clear, but donations and items left by volunteers sometimes block the paths. The change-of-occupancy citation arises from homeless people who stayed in the store during some cold winter nights.

Budenske is to appear in court on Feb. 26 and could face fines of up to $750 for each violation. It is the first citation she has ever received at Poverty Resistance, and Budenske closed the store Monday following the citations.

“They did not close me down,” she said. “I closed it down myself because I was just disgusted with the whole mess.”

While the store didn’t advertise that it was open Tuesday, volunteers were advised not turn customers away. A freshly painted pink square could be seen in front of a breaker box, reminding people to keep the area clear.

People filed in and out of the store as Nancy Thompeson walked along the shelves Tuesday afternoon. She has shopped at the store for the past year and said she comes “every other day.”

“This is pretty much the one I come to,” she said.

Volunteer Rickey Hahn said Poverty Resistance has served thousands over the years, and is usually busiest when about 200 people come on food delivery days. Tuesday was to be a food day, but because of the citations, the store didn’t take a Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies delivery.

Repeated attempts to contact the Casper fire division chief of the Community Risk Reduction Division were unsuccessful.

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Reach city reporter Kelly Byer at 307-266-0639 or kelly.byer@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyByer.

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