DULUTHIt's busy this time of year at the Hands of Christ Cooperative Ministry, not unlike the county's other co-ops. The end of November through the end of December are high volume at co-ops, both for families in need and people interested in volunteering, spurred on by the holiday spirit.And while the Hands of Christ, along with its fellow co-ops, welcomes food and monetary donations with open arms during the holidays, they are also faced with the realization that there is year-round need. Though holiday spirit fades in January, the need for assistance does not. Which is why Hands of Christ director Mary Roberts is so excited about what is coming to the Duluth facility early next year.
The co-op plans to open a thrift store in January or early February, the idea being to generate money through the sales of donated good that will be used to help fund Hands of Christ, allowing it to feed and help more people. The thrift store will be located downstairs from the main building, a 5,000-square-foot area that is being constructed to mimic a store. Already two dressing rooms are finished, complete with draperies and mirrors, and donated items are being collected.
The plan is to have everything available from used clothing to dressers and bed sets to televisions and stereo equipment. Shoppers will be able to find bargains and money made from the store will help Hands of Christ expand its ministry.
"It's a three-part blessing," Roberts said. "The person who donates is blessed, the person who purchases an item is blessed and the people who are helped by the proceeds are blessed.
"Because of the economy, it's something we need for funding. And we're definitely going to need volunteers."
Roberts foresees needing three volunteers to staff the thrift store, including at least one, and maybe two, men, who would be in charge of unloading incoming donations. Local churches staff the co-op on rotating months, but the ability to get volunteers is hindered somewhat by the facility's schedule -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. As is her personality, Roberts has faith that more volunteers will be found. And the way things have come together for the prospective thrift store, there's no reason to doubt her.
"It's continuing our ministry ... the vision was to build a store," Roberts said. "It's going to open up some new opportunities for people in this area -- both in a new place to shop and new money to help people.
"(With new funds from the thrift store) instead of putting Band-Aids on people's hurt, maybe we can put on bandages. Or maybe we can make that hurt go away altogether."
It's the perfect sentiment for this time of year. And for some, volunteering to help at Hands of Christ may be the perfect New Year's resolution. One thing's for sure: even more help will be needed when the thrift store opens. If that interests you, call Roberts at 770-232-7454.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.