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Judson Association thrift store ministry helps meet physical, spiritual needscomment (0)

January 5, 2012

By Leigh Pritchett

Judson Association thrift store ministry helps meet physical, spiritual needs

Looking at Judson Baptist Association’s thrift store ministry, it may be difficult to believe that it began in one woman’s carport.

But it did.

Now it consists of two thrift stores that generate funds to provide food assistance for nearly 450 Henry County families who fall within certain income brackets. Food is purchased from food companies and comes from Wiregrass Food Bank in Dothan and food drives through churches, schools, the U.S. Postal Service and other entities.

“This is a God thing,” Director of Missions George Thompson observed.

Nell Price agreed.

“God has blessed this ministry from Day 1,” said Price, whose carport was the starting point for the thrift stores.

In 2006, the first store — Love in Action — opened in Abbeville in northern Henry County. The second store — Overflowing Ministries — followed in April 2011 in Headland to the south.

The stores were given different names in order to differentiate. However, Thompson said it is interesting to see how each has taken on the characteristics of its name.

In fact, Overflowing Ministries is “overflowing,” he said. Already it is experiencing about half the business and donations of Love in Action.

Love in Action, which is open Monday through Friday and half a day on Saturday, is manned by two paid cashiers and approximately 55 volunteers. Overflowing Ministries operates Tuesday through Friday, solely through the work of about 45 volunteers, Thompson and his wife, Barbara.

The chain of events that led to the first store actually began in 2002 as a ministry to Hispanics, he explained.

Price was working with a Hispanic ministry that met in the youth house of First Baptist Church, Abbeville. She hosted yard sales to get funds for activities related to the ministry. Some of the donated goods were distributed to Hispanics who needed them.

In 2005, Price approached Judson Association about assuming the yard sale ministry.

A food assistance ministry of her church — Calvary Baptist, Abbeville — also was being run from her carport.

Both ministries subsequently came to be housed at the association in two mobile units it had already procured from the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, Price said.

A thrift store was set up in one mobile unit and a food distribution ministry in the other.

Very quickly, “the [thrift store] contributions were overwhelming, and we had nowhere to go” to expand, Price said.

In 2006, Judson Association constructed a 30-by-60-foot building for the thrift store. That left a mobile unit for food distribution and the other for sorting thrift store donations.

In about a year, the association’s churches paid off the construction, Price noted.

Still “our distribution was outgrowing our space,” she continued.

For that reason, the thrift store building was connected in 2009 to a 40-by-100-foot expansion, large enough even to accommodate the food storage, Price said.

The expansion also created an interview room where volunteers can talk to people in private to tell them about Jesus. As a result, there have been at least 40 professions of faith at the Abbeville location, Price said.

Taking on the thrift store and food ministries was a way to fulfill a need in the community, Thompson said.

“And the need has expanded,” he noted. “As the need has expanded, so has the ministry. It’s just amazing to me.”

The growth facilitated the opening of the second store.

It is in a 40-by-75-foot space, said Thompson, who is serving as its director for now.

The Headland location also has an interview room where volunteers tell clients about Jesus’ love.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Price said.

At least nine people have accepted Christ as Savior since the store opened, Thompson noted.

When she heard that Judson Association planned to establish the second store, Price was “excited and knew it was a good thing.”

To help, Love in Action shared some of its donated goods, equipment and other items with Overflowing Ministries. It also committed to give some funds on a monthly basis, as needed for a year.

The intent is for the Headland ministry to be more than a thrift store and food distribution site, Thompson said, noting the goal is to offer classes on financial management, counseling and other services.

Already both stores are an outreach to people in need.

“We’re meeting the needs of people both physically and spiritually,” Price noted.

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