Because poverty comes in all shapes and sizes

Many of my favorite stories take place within our thrift store “Common Threads”.  It is an extension of the Family Center and helps us to reach more people in need.  The store is a story in itself so I thought it only proper to tell you about it before I tell you the tales of the people inside.

For several years, the Family Center held a clothing giveaway once a month.  We asked the community to donate their unwanted items and we would pass them to those we serve.  At first, “giveaway day” was one of our favorites.  We loved working with our families to find items for their kids, their husbands, themselves.  If one of our clients needed an outfit for a job interview, we had fun “shopping” with them and having fashion shows to see what outfit fit her best for the job she was applying.  Having a baby?  Let us stock you up on baby clothes.  Gained custody of your grandson?  Here is a bunch of school clothes to get started.  Clothes were sorted, easy to find and we loved to give them away.

However, as with anything we do here… we start with a little mole hill and then quickly jump to Mt. Everest.  This community gives and gives and soon our clothing donations took up three rooms.  It took a week to get it all out and another week to give it all away.  We have a tiny building and space is an issue.  We couldn’t handle the volume.  If someone needed a specific article of clothing, we couldn’t sort through and find it.  It wasn’t uncommon to have over 100 people visit our clothing giveaway in one day which was very overwhelming to the staff and volunteers.  We had to break up fights, fuss at folks for taking too much and not leaving things for others and then we heard people were selling what we were giving away.

“Giveaway week” was no longer our favorite and we were about to get out of the clothing donation business all together. We dreaded it, we didn’t have space for it and it stopped feeling like the mission God had for us.

Before we stopped giveaway day, a wonderful board member suggested a thrift store as an alternative.  He took me to Cannon County Outreach Center and let me see their store and talk to the preacher who started it.  We visited other thrift stores and had many planning sessions… we were rejuvenated!  The store would generate income to support our current programs and would allow us to create new ones.  It would solve our space issue and put the joy back into taking clothing donations!

But this was a big change for us, everything we do is free..  How will our families react?  The community?  Our supporters?

Lots of thoughts and prayers went into this decision but we took the chance and in May of 2016 we opened Common Threads on 1300 Hatcher Lane.  The store takes in clothing, furniture and housewares and sells them at an unbelievably low price.  It is volunteer run although we do have a few paid positions as part of the mission to serve others.  You can volunteer and in exchange get free items or money toward your electricity or rent.  Youth groups complete service project there.  People love to give there.  People love to shop. It is an amazing place!

But what we found was a completely different demographic of people we are serving through Common Threads.  Some of our families who participated in “giveaway day” shop at Common Threads but mostly we found our shoppers are the struggling middle class; those that make too much money for government assistance but not enough to pay their rent.  People who are taking care of ailing parents and struggle to put clothes on their children as well.  Managers of clothing stores that cannot afford the clothes they sell and take care of their families as well.  People too proud to come to a free clothing event but desperately need the assistance.

This past year and a half has been a whirlwind.  Running a store is much different than running a nonprofit but it has been an amazing journey. For the past 8 months Common Threads has made a profit that has allowed us to increase the number of people we financially serve, increase what we can purchase for our food pantry and allow us to serve many more families in our community than through the Family Center alone. and we still give a lot of it away fro free!

This was defiantly a leap of faith but one we are so glad we took.  The store continues to grow every day; the volunteers, the donations, the shoppers, the assistance we offer.  It has grown so much, it has outgrown it’s space! I thank God everyday for the path that let to Common Threads, the bumps and bruises we earned along the way, the people who have grown to rely on it and the stories that come from it.

If you haven’t been already, please check us out.  Know that when you donate to Common Threads, it stays in Maury County.  The profits serve Maury County residents and the programs serve your neighbors.

This is growth… this is new… this is Maury

 

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