Several long-time volunteers walked out of Angels in the Attic recently, saying they have had one run-in too many with the shop’s heavy-handed and autocratic boss, Kathy Blackwell.

The walkout highlights a growing rift within the thrift and charity organization on Locust Street in Floyd  — some of it from disputes over whether or not to relocate the facility to the old Harris and Baker Furniture Building on North Main Street just outside of town and some from problems with Blackwell.

Blackwell confronted volunteers recently, claiming that some “well respected” citizens had reported seeing volunteers leaving the facility with merchandise without paying.

When asked to name the “well respected” informants, Blackwell refused. I know most of the volunteers at Angels it’s very difficult to believe that any have walked off with merchandise. I talked with several volunteers who flatly deny that any pilfering is going on among those who donate their time and efforts. Volunteers do sometimes take items like clothing home to see if a family member wants them but they either bring them back or pay for the items. It’s a small perk for those who give so much of their time.

Volunteers also say Blackwell told them to stop “fraternizing” with customers and has become more demanding of the unpaid staff in recent weeks.  They say she has turned on anyone who questions the idea of purchasing the Harris & Baker Building and moving to it.

The rift has caused several well-known and long-time volunteers to leave Angels. The store’s problems have replaced the controversy over school superintendent Terry Arbogast’s ever-changing salary as the hot topic over breakfast at the Blue Ridge Restaurant.

“I’ll never shop there again,” one long-time customer told me this week after she learned of the problems at Angels. “I’ll spend the money on gas to drive to Goodwill in Christiansburg.”

Some volunteers — as well as local citizens — question the wisdom of using Angels funds to purchase the Harris & Baker Building, saying the cost could cut back on donations the group makes to needy organizations. Others say moving the facility out of downtown Floyd would sharply reduce customer traffic.

Volunteers aren’t the only ones who report problems with Blackwell. Some customers have also complained of run-ins with the shop’s honcho.