Notes from the Director

Diane Draheim
Diane Draheim, Executive Director

Our first big event of Spring was the Second Annual traveling little Black Dress Fashion show, March 28 and 29 at The Gould Hotel. The House of Concern garnered more than $12,000 during the two days and dozens of sponsors and volunteers helped make it a truly outstanding event. The committee is already working on next year’s extravaganza. All profits go towards running the food pantry. You can make a difference and have lots of fun all at the same time. 

Later in this year we will be having a Mystery Dinner theater. Doug’s Fish Fry will be bringing their truck out and some of the proceeds will go to HOC. There is a Dinner Dance being planned, and many other fun events are being bounced around. So make sure you check our website and read the newsletter so you don’t miss a thing.

The New Beginnings Boutique has lots of great new fashions and Lynne has been busy getting ready for Spring so make sure you visit us at 103Fall Street. Store Hours are Wednesday 10-5,
Thursday and Friday 11-6 and Saturday 11-4.

Our State Street Store is also thinking Spring and getting out our Easter and St. Patrick’s Day items so you will want to see what we have there. Great buys and very cool stuff, and of course you are supporting the food pantry with everything that you purchase. So that is a win for everyone!

All of these events and everything that we do at the stores are all in order to meet our mission of helping our neighbors who are in need. Still it would not be enough if we did not have the amazing community support that we have been blessed to receive over the years. During the recent Holiday Season I was once again so touched with the immense giving spirit that surrounds us. I thank you all for all you do~

Have a great Spring, I hope to see you all at The Traveling Little Black Dress fashion Show!


New Beginnings Boutique Re-Opens in New Space

Boutique Front
The New Beginnings Boutique will reopen in new space at 103 Fall Street on Monday, April 7th at 11am.

The New Beginnings Boutique, a Project of the Seneca County House of Concern, has re-opened in new larger quarters just down the street from the original location. The new store will be nearly three times the size of the original with expanded mechandise. The store has been closed temporarily as preparations were made to move to the new location.

Boutique Show Rack
This shoe rack is among the additions in the new facility built by Board member Dave Saunders, who also made new counters, a dressing room and much more.

That enterprise has provided a new retail storefront in the downtown area, helping build traffic for all downtown businesses, and the sales generated by the Boutique provide funds to help stock the shelves in the food pantry. HOC Executive Director Diane Draheim says the store has been a great success both in terms of customer feedback and in sales. By getting a better return for the many high quality women’s clothing items donated to the HOC, the store has generated new revenues while offering a great shopping experience. Items can also be taken on consignment at the store.

From nearly opening day, New Beginnings Boutique store Manager Lynne Wimmer has been eager to expand to larger quarters. The new store is located at 103 Fall Street (although one consequence of the move is that the sign over the new building was made for the original store and still has the old address, a problem they hope to remedy soon).  The space for the store is being donated rent and utility free through the generosity of Bruce Bonafiglia and Bonadent.

Boutique April 1
The Boutique carries gently used high quality women’s clothing and accessories. The store accepts donations and consignments.

The new store is already refurbished and the “soft opening” will be held on Monday, April 7th at 11am. The store will then be open Wednesdays through Saturdays. Spring hours will be Wednesday, 10-5; Thursday and Friday, 11-6; and Saturday 11-4.

Dozens of people helped clean, paint and refurbish the new location in preparation of Monday’s opening. “It’s probably bad to start mentioning names since there are so many people to thank, but we do want to give a special thank you to Board members Dave and Bonnie Saunders and their extended family, and Denise and Greg Sarra, all of whom really went beyond the call of duty. They not only to put in many hours of labor themselves, but also to recruit others to help with the move. We could not possibly have made the move without all those folks,” said Wimmer.

The Boutique is one of the ways the House of Concern Board of Directors has met the rising needs for food in Seneca County. in January alone, the food pantry was able to furnish over 31,000 meals to hungry residents. “With growing need and cuts in funding, we are facing a double whammy,” says HOC Board President, Stephen Beals. “We are determined to keep our doors open for as long as there is a need. The New Beginnings Boutique is one small example of how we are thinking ‘outside of the box’ to meet those needs. Our recent very successful Traveling Little Black Dress Fashion show is another example. This Board and dozens of volunteers have spent hundreds of volunteer hours trying to raise much needed funds and think of new ways to engage the community. We owe a great deal to those volunteers and could not meet the need without their support and energy.”

The House of Concern is a partner agency of United Way of Seneca County.

Disclosure: Seneca Daily News Publisher Stephen Beals is Board President of the Seneca County House of Concern.

Bad Mix: Increased Demand for Food & Cuts in Donations

HOClogoThe increase in Seneca County families seeking food assistance this year is unprecedented, and it comes at the worst possible time: a time when government funding cuts and the typical downturn in donations during the summer months also hit.

A vast majority of the clientele coming to the Seneca County House of Concern are working at least one part-time job. Many of the others are disabled or elderly. The media image of a “moocher” taking advantage of an overly generous government dole is way off the mark. You are much more likely to see Veterans and people who have been laid off or disabled who are genuinely afraid they won’t be able to feed their kids. Many are forced to make the decision between food and heat. One of the most common needs is for enough gas to get to their jobs.


Although there are legitimate concerns about the impact of raising the minimum wage, the clients at the House of Concern illustrate the other side of that coin. People in Seneca County can work a full time or two part-time part time jobs and still not make enough to feed their families.

NEWBeginningsBoutiqueAccording to an MIT study, the living wage in Seneca County NY for a family with two adults and two children would be $18.20/hour. The study notes that anything less than $10.80/hour would be considered a “poverty wage,” meaning barely sufficient to meet the basic needs of the family. In other words, the so-called “minimum wage” is more than $3/hour less than the “poverty wage.” In terms of real dollars, the minimum wage has dropped more than $2/hour since the last time it was raised. The minimum wage in New York will rise to $9/hr over a three year period starting with a 75 cents per hour increase Dec.31 of this year.

At the same time, the majority of jobs available in the county pay below the “living wage” level wages, and some, such as food preparation and serving pay below the poverty level. Here are the typical wages paid in this county for various types of work, according to the study. Note that these are median wages, not the lowest or highest wages in each category.


Healthcare Support $13.17
Food Preparation and Serving Related $9.61
Building and Grounds Cleaning and maintenance $13.32
Personal care and Services $10.99
Sales and Related $13.38
Office and Administrative Support $16.37
Farming, Fishing and Forestry $13.36
Production $14.83
Transportation and Material Moving $15.53

For the complete study, click HERE.

It should be noted that some of the people earning minimum wage are teens living at home or trainees on their way to higher paying jobs. But, increasingly, older workers supporting families have had to accept minimum wage employment. It is reported that the average worker at McDonalds nationwide is 28, not the stereotypical teenager working after school for date money.


Minimum wageThat trend can be clearly seen during the intake process at the House of Concern. Although the individual records are confidential, looked at as a whole, they indicate that a large number of the clients are working, but that having a job doesn’t mean the job pays above a poverty wage, or anywhere close to a “living wage.” They also indicate that the numbers of people in the county working in these types of positions have increased dramatically. The downside of increased tourism is the fact that many of the new jobs created by increased tourism are in fields that pay low wages. At the same time, a decrease in the county’s industrial base also means fewer “living wage” job opportunities.

It is not difficult to see the reasons for the increase in demand for food at the county’s five food pantries. A solution is much harder to come by. A vast majority of the employers in Seneca County have employees who use the services of area food pantries. It has become a fact of life, if a disturbing one.

Economists argue both sides of the issue. Raising wages will, most agree, decrease the number of jobs. But it will also increase (again, most agree) the amount of money spent, the amount of sales tax collected and so on. The consensus of most economic studies appears to be that raising the wage has a net zero effect on employment. That is, the number of jobs lost are replaced by the number created by the increased economic activity generated by more money flowing into the local economy. Of course the net effect of empowering people to be self-sufficient and not need to look for charitable support is more difficult to measure.

In any case, pay scale is not the only issue. Recent cuts in Federal funding to programs like Foodlink, which supplies much of the food distributed by the House of Concern and other food pantries, have cut the amount of food available. At the same time, cuts in funds for other social services, such as subsidies for housing, fuel, day care etc., has placed an even greater financial burden on poor families, many of which have been forced to accept SNAP and come to the area food pantries for the first time in their lives.


Right now, in Seneca County and throughout the region, food pantries are also experiencing the rather typical cycle of decreased donations. The summer months are traditionally slow times for donations, but the demand for food goes up during the summer because many of the school-age children who receive subsidies for lunches at school are now home for the summer, adding a further strain on the family finances.

Minimum Wage IncreaseFor now, the only real solution for local food pantries like the House of Concern is to raise the funds coming in, and do what they can to lower the funds going out. The HOC has done this by increasing their fund-raising activities, like this Spring’s Little Black Dress Fashion show, opening a new consignment shop in downtown Seneca Falls to reach new buyers, and doing things like lowering the ceilings in the New Beginnings Thrift Store on State Street and obtaining new grants for special projects.

The Board has also named a “Volunteer Volunteer Coordinator” to help run the various operations of the thrift store and food pantry. The organization has also helped educate potential recipients on how to apply for SNAP and other programs and has leveraged new support from existing Foodlink programs to increase the amount of food available.

One of the ironies is that although all House of Concern employees make more than minimum wage, most make less than the MIT study’s “poverty wage.”


The easiest and most painless way to help with the current crunch is to buy items from either of the New Beginnings stores – New Beginnings Thrift store at 35 State Street or the New Beginnings Boutique at 91A Fall Street. The thrift store has a vast quantity of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing as well as household furnishings and accessories, books, CDs and DVDs and more. The Boutique features previously enjoyed women’s fashions and accessories including many designer label clothes. Items may also be brought in for sale on consignment.

Donations of goods and services and volunteering can also help. Please make sure the items you donate are genuinely something you would buy yourself. If you look at the item wonder if it should go to the House of Concern or simply be thrown away, chances are it should be thrown away. Please don’t bring broken appliances. When you bring your items, please bring them during regular store hours. If you have an item that needs to be picked up, it may take a few days to arrange for pick-up since the HOC relies on volunteer labor and trucks for most of the pick-ups.

If you are able to, summer is a great time to make a donation because it’s a big help to have a bit of extra income during traditionally lean times.  If you can make it an EXTRA donation, even better.

Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Wednesday, July 17th

New Beginnings BoutiqueSeneca Chamber to Co-Host Ribbon Cutting Ceremony & Grand Opening for House of Concern’s New Beginnings Boutique

from Seneca Daily

The Seneca County Chamber of Commerce will co-host an upcoming ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening event to celebrate the growth and expansion for one of its local members, the Seneca County House of Concern. New Beginnings Boutique is a newly opened consignment shop that is owned and operated by the House of Concern, and is managed by Lynn Wimmer.

The event will include photo opportunities with a short presentation, and will take place on Wednesday July 17 at 11:00am at New Beginnings Boutique, located at 91A Fall Street in Seneca Falls. The boutique will offer a 10% discount on any items purchased from Wednesday, July 17th through Saturday, July 20th. Light refreshments will be served to those in attendance.

HOClogoHouse of Concern Executive Director Diane Draheim stated her excitement for the expansion. “We are so pleased with this new venture, and really look forward to this open house event as an opportunity to open our doors to the
community, where local residents, businesses and community partners can stop in to see and hear firsthand what we are all about.”

The Seneca County Chamber of Commerce hopes for this exact same outcome.

“Ribbon Cutting and Open House Events are just one of the many services that we can offer to help enhance exposure for our members while marketing their businesses; and truly reap the benefits of Chamber Membership,” said Cassandra Harrington, the Chamber’s Membership Services Coordinator.

Left to Right, Bob Adkins, store manager of the New Beginnings Thrift Shop at the House of Concern on State Street, Lynne Wimmer, store manager for the New Beginnings Boutique on Fall Street, and Rev. Eleanor Collinsworth, House of Concern Board Treasurer and Chair of the Boutique Committee.

Draheim noted that the organization strives in continuing efforts towards greater awareness while participating in new projects that may result in
additional donations or other ways that benefit or assist with their causes. “Our goal is to never have to turn folks away that are in need,” she added.

The Seneca County House of Concern is a local non-profit organization established in 1969, and specializes in securing and providing food support, clothing, furniture and household items to those in need, while assisting
with other direct services such as providing advocacy for individuals.

The House of Concern joined the Chamber of Commerce in 2012 and already has taken advantage of several business and networking benefits that the Chamber provides. They were one of the local recipients to benefit from Finger Lakes Cork & Fork’s efforts towards combating hunger. Cork & Fork- a regional food, wine and agri-tourism event, is held each September at Rodman Lott & Son Farms in Seneca Falls and is managed by the Chamber. In 2012 the House of Concern was presented with a monetary donation as well as non perishable items that were collected from food drives arranged during event promotions. The 2013 Finger Lakes Cork & Fork festival will be held on Friday-Saturday, September 20-21.

Foodlink HOC
House of Concern Board members Rev. Eleanor Collinsworth and Phil Dressing distribute food at a recent Foodlink delivery.

For more information about Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies, and Open House events, or for more details about marketing opportunities within Chamber membership,
please contact the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce at (315) 568-2906 or visit

The Basics:

Grand Open House Event- Expansion Reception. New Beginnings Boutique consignment store, newly opened under the Seneca County House of Concern.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with photo opportunities: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 11am

New Beginnings Boutique, 91A Fall Street, Seneca Falls, NY 13148.

To offer the community an opportunity to view, shop and support the fight against hunger in Seneca County.

The boutique will offer a 10% discount on any items purchased from Wednesday, July 17th through Saturday, July 20th. Light refreshments will be served to those in attendance.

Shop details: The store will concentrate on selling high-end and designer clothes, handbags, shoes and jewelry for women.

Hours of Operation:
Wednesday 10am – 5pm
Thursday 11am – 6pm
Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm

Please call 315.568.4401 for more information or visit

New Beginnings Boutique Now Open on Fall Street

NBB first sale
New Beginnings Boutique Store Manager Lynne Wimmer and House of Concern Executive Director Diane Draheim make a transaction at the new store, which will officially open on Wednesday on Fall Street, Seneca Falls.

There is a new retail business in downtown Seneca Falls and it won’t make a dime. But that’s the way it is intended to be. Instead of profits, all proceeds will go to feeding the hungry in Seneca County.

The Seneca County House of Concern, faced with a staggering growth in need and dwindling government funding will be opening the New Beginnings Boutique next door to Women Made Products and directly across Fall Street from Parkers restaurant.

The new venture will be run by store manager Lynne Wimmer. Wimmer joined the staff last month for the opening day on Wednesday, June 19th.  The staff of the House of Concern and volunteers worked for the past month preparing the space by tearing down walls, putting in new floors and creating a dressing room and sales counter.

HOC New Beginnings BoutiqueThe New Beginnings Boutique has begun accepting clothing as donations or on consignment. The plan is to buy clothing outright for resale. Persons with items for consignment are asked to make an appointment to have their clothing evaluated for possible purchases and to limit the number of items being offered to 15 pieces. The store concentrates on selling high-end and designer clothes, handbags, shoes and jewelry for women.

“This store will be quite different from the New Beginnings Thrift Store which shares space with the House of Concern food pantry on State Street,” says House of Concern Board President, Stephen Beals. “We’ll be looking for high-end merchandise and Lynne, Bob and the volunteers have been working hard to make the store an inviting place for bargain hunters. There’s a real trend for shopping at consignment stores, and we were very fortunate to find someone with the expertise and experience of Lynne to help us create a great little shop right in the middle of downtown Seneca Falls.”

Left to Right, Bob Adkins, store manager of the New Beginnings Thrift Shop at the House of Concern on State Street, Lynne Wimmer, store manager for the New Beginnings Boutique on Fall Street, and Rev. Eleanor Collinsworth, House of Concern Board Treasurer and Chair of the Boutique Committee.

But the bottom line for both New Beginnings stores is that all proceeds go directly for buying food for Seneca County’s hungry. Although the organization has been around since 1969, there has never been anywhere close to the number of food insecure families. “Our raw numbers of families and individuals served has more than doubled in the last five years, while at the same time our funding from government sources has been cut significantly. We simply had to make significant changes to respond to the growing needs in our community,” says House of Concern Executive Director Diane Draheim. “In May we were responsible for providing more than 17,000 meals for people in or county.”

The store opening on Wednesday was actually a “soft” opening, with a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting scheduled for July 17th.  The store hours on Wednesday will be from 11-5 and the store will be open Wednesdays through Saturdays. Wimmer says they will determine what hours they will be open based on store traffic and customer demand. The store is looking for volunteers with a strong retail background and great customer service skills who would like to offer their expertise to help with the new effort.

The New Beginnings Boutique is located at 91A Fall Street and the phone number is 316-568-4401.

House of Concern Honors Volunteers


HOC Volunteers
A few of the staff members, Board Members and Volunteers who got together for lunch on Volunteer Appreciation Day

The Seneca County House of Concern honored its volunteers earlier this week as staff and Board members joined them for a celebration luncheon at the offices on State Street in Seneca Falls. The House of Concern provides a food pantry and thrift store to persons in need throughout Seneca County.

The organization has seen tremendous increases in need and a corresponding decrease in government assistance, which requires even more input on the part of volunteers to meet the needs of the community to provide proper nutrition for our neighbors.

The HOC has also partnered with other agencies and businesses to provide nutrition and financial management training to help those seeking aid find ways to become more food secure. They also receive supplemental food from Foodlink and various community gardens.

The House of Concern was instrumental in starting the Seneca Falls Community Garden and worked closely with the community garden project in Waterloo as well.

On May 17-18, the House of Concern is partnering with the Hotel Clarence to present a fashion show and luncheon, The Traveling Little Black Dress Creates New Beginnings, to benefit their efforts. The show will feature local models and clothes and accessories from area businesses. There will be auction items available as well. One of the highlights will be examples of how great outfits can be put together from clothes from the House of Concern’s New Beginning Thrift Store.

HOC New Beginnings BoutiqueComing in June will be a new storefront operation on Fall Street in Seneca Falls. The New Beginnings Boutique will feature high-end gently worn clothing and consignments, as well as accessories. The shop, adjacent to WomanMade Products is currently being remodeled for its Grand Opening. All funds generated from the new store will be sued to help the increasing need for food for the organization’s consumers.

Notes from the Director

Spring BudsHappy Spring! Okay I admit that on the day I’m writing this, it doesn’t seem like Spring but the  calendar tells us it is. As I look out my window this morning it is gray and spitting snow and yet just by our office door there are little flowers standing up valiantly despite the weather.

This ability to see what lies ahead despite how things look right this minute is something that all of us here at House of Concern practice. Last summer when the numbers at the food pantry rose so drastically and we found out that we were losing grant money at the same time things looked pretty gloomy. Now I will not even pretend that part of me didn’t want to say “I give up!” However that was only for a minute (or two) and the next step was to really start envisioning new ways to get money in to our pantry. So there have been meetings with the board and several committees new and old working to do exactly that. Here are just some of the things that have been and are going on right now.

We decided it was time to give the store a much needed facelift and at the same time we needed to lower our utility costs. So with new grants and donations and lots of volunteers we have a new shed, new windows in the store, a lowered ceiling, new lighting and fresh paint on the walls all in less than a year. We have rebranded the store to be called House of Concern New Beginnings. Stop in and see all the changes and buy yourself something nice. The store is for everyone’s shopping and the sales help to fund the food pantry.

So that has been step one. Step two has been fundraising, which we have not done a lot of over the years. Thanks to a great idea from Sharon Hoatland from the Hotel Clarence we will be having an exciting fun fashion show fund raiser on May 17thand 18th called The Traveling Little Black Dress Creating New Beginnings. Read more about it in this   newsletter and please plan to come. Remember all the profits will go to our food pantry.

The Third step is both scary and exciting which is often the way with new ventures. We are opening a consignment store on Fall Street. We will be in the same building as    WomanMade Products. This will be different than our main store as it is consignments only. It will be called HOC New Beginnings Boutique. The thing that is not different is the reason we are doing this and that is to raise money for the food pantry. The sales will help to support the pantry.

So as you can see many changes are occurring but they all are in an effort to continue  doing what we have been doing for over 40 years, caring for our neighbors in need. I thank all of you for your help doing that. We could not do it without all of your support.

Have a great Spring!