Marshall United Methodist Church has joined a partnership to ‘love on’ their neighbors.
MARSHALL, Michigan – Area residents who may not be able to afford new clothes, shoes, appliances and housewares will be receiving a boost through a new community project – a downtown charity where everything is free.
A new community-exchange store called “There’s Enough” is to open this summer at 413 E. Michigan Ave. The project, which will be based in the downtown building just east of the Oaklawn Sleep Center, stems from a partnership among Marshall United Methodist Church, Oaklawn and other Marshall-area churches, organizations and businesses.
Oaklawn’s development manager, Amy Reimann, recently met with Melany Chalker, the church’s lead pastor and the store’s volunteer director, to turn access to the building over to Chalker and the rest of the volunteer team.
“This partnership helps us to fulfill Oaklawn’s mission, which is to contribute to the well-being of the communities we serve,” Reimann said. “It isn’t always about fixing a broken leg or stitching up an injury. It’s about the community’s overall well-being and daily life as one big family.”
Reimann and Chalker met Monday, April 2, to turn over a key to the building. The occasion was attended by several regional supporters of the project.
“We have been waiting for this for two and a half years,” Chalker said. “It is the perfect community for it. Marshall ‘loves on’ its neighbors.”
The store is to open officially in the early summer, Chalker said. Meanwhile, volunteers will undergo operational training, and will be working to scrub, paint, renovate, and then set up the store.
“Everything that comes into the store is by donation,” Chalker said. “When you’re done using something, we ask that you drop it off. When you’re in need of something, stop by and see if we have it. No money is ever exchanged.”
Based on the concept of a free store in Columbus, Ohio, which operates through the United Methodist Church, the new store in Marshall will be similar to a “sister store” that has been open for seven years in downtown Concord, Mich.
“It’s a win-win to have an organization like this – a hub downtown, very visible for our neighbors to find anything they’re in need of, and a place for the rest of us to give things that then won’t have to go in the landfill,” Chalker said.
The store is meant to serve individuals from all income levels, Chalker said. Although items are not sold outright, income to cover operational costs such as utilities and cleaning supplies is generated through financial donations.
“A cup is always on the counter. Also, grants are written,” Chalker said. The Albion District of the United Methodist Church has awarded a match grant of $4,000 to support $4,000 already raised by the Marshall United Methodist Church. “This has become the seed money and has supported the purchase of display furniture and other start up costs,” she said.
More information about the project can be found online at umcmarshall.org/next-steps/local-missions. Messages intended for Chalker or the store’s Leadership Team may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Facebook page for the project may be found by searching for “There’s Enough” and a webpage is forthcoming, Chalker said.
Times and days for item drop-offs will be announced as the store’s official opening nears. Additional teams being developed include volunteer pickup, drop-off, merchandise intake and preparation, day managers and a restock team.
Partnerships with area businesses, agencies and other organizations still are being sought, Chalker said. In addition to Oaklawn and the church, current partners include Marshall Area Community Services, Marshall Community Foundation, Family Bible Church, Crossroads Church, First Presbyterian Church, the Green Scene Natural Living Store and Battle Creek-based Haven of Rest Ministries.
The Concord store works in partnership with the county Community Action Agency, Concord United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church of Concord, St. Catherine Laboure Church, Concord Fire Department, the Gideons, and the Girl Scouts of America, among others.
“It’s not a hand out, but a hand up,” Chalker said. “All monetary gifts beyond expenses to maintain the store are used to help with gas, car repairs, utilities, house repairs and other needs that our friends and neighbors have from time to time. Above all, we’re building community relationships with people with whom we may not otherwise ever be in a relationship.”
The volunteers and customers begin to formulate “a community of prayer,” Chalker said, supporting each other in more than just items needed.
“At our store in Concord, we ended up becoming one big family, and that is more important than anything else we do.”