The stretch of U.S. Highway 319 is a busy one – a 72-mile corridor that extends from the border of Florida, through Thomasville, Ga., all the way to Interstate 75 in Tifton. It serves as a direct business road through Colquitt County.
However, some travelers might not be aware of the hidden jewel positioned just off the highway. A quick turn onto GA State Route 33, a stone’s throw away from a busy corner gas station, lies a charitable organization whose sole focus is to assist in aiding those in need – whether locally or around the globe.
Under the spiritual headship of Heritage Church in Moultrie, The Storehouse Thrift Store is a “community ministry partnering with many organizations to serve locally and generate funds for local and global missions,” according to a volunteer guideline publication.
Located across the street from Heritage Church, the massive, metal-clad warehouse has transformed over the years from its initial role as church storage to what it is known as today – a thrifter’s paradise — but more importantly, a community radial point for service and ministry, according to Heritage Church missions pastor Emily Hall.
“We had no idea that we were going to become a local hub for being able to serve in our community – that just happened, and we’re thrilled about it,” she said.
Bedecked with an inviting, Southern-style front porch and entrance, the vast facility houses more than 20,000 square feet of neatly organized pre-loved goods, to include antiques, electronics, housewares, furniture of all sizes, and gently used, yet boutique quality clothing.
Through its Facebook page, various social media sites and word of mouth, the Storehouse has quickly amassed a dedicated following of shoppers who line up around the building prior to opening hours on sale days. However, while great shopping deals and frugal finds are plentiful, the more significant value is found in the service of an army of volunteers, hundreds of dedicated shoppers, and the incessant benevolence of regular donators, whose combined efforts serve as an intangible form of ministry.
It all initially started with a garage sale. Founded in October 2012 as a ministry of Heritage Church, the Storehouse grew from humble beginnings, according to Shirley Davis, who manages the facility along with her husband, Bobby.
“The mission board wanted to raise money for missions in general, and it was suggested that we have a garage sale,” Davis explained. “We had the garage sale in October of 2012, and that’s when the Storehouse was birthed.”
In its former years, the warehouse was part of Destiny Mobile Homes and was purchased for use by Heritage Church in the 1990s. The church used it to house several large items, from a vacation Bible school version of Noah’s Ark to a few buses and even a tractor, Davis said. When the mission board decided to hold the garage sale, they used a small corner of the building and advertised the sale for a Saturday in October 2012.
“We raised an astronomical amount,” Davis said. “More than what was initially expected.”
Due to the success of the first garage sale and the ability to pour those funds into the missions’ ministry, the missions board decided to hold another garage sale just a few months later in December, and the same thing happened – more money was raised than anyone previously anticipated. It was at this point the missions board realized that God was moving them in a specific direction, according to Davis.
“[Henry and Richard] Blackaby’s Bible study, ‘Experiencing God,’ has one of the principles that says, ‘Find out where God is moving and meet Him there,’” she explained. “That’s exactly what we knew was happening. Everyone said, ‘Yes, God’s hand is on this place.’ So, from there, people started donating items.”
As the number of donations continued to pour in, the missions board found themselves with a good problem to have – figuring out where to house all the various items that were being dropped off on a regular basis.
Outreach Director Jay Jordan recalls the early days of receiving and processing the overwhelming amount of donations. Someone suggested the idea of leaving large storage tubs outside the Storehouse to collect incoming donations. Those tubs were later used to help sort and organize the donations on sale days. It worked – for the time being, Jordan said.
“But when it rained, we’d have to call each other and say, ‘Someone go by the Storehouse and put the tubs up,’” she said. The church quickly realized more space was needed to accommodate the volume of donations coming in. “We started with the very first quarter of the building, because the rest was the church’s [storage space],” Jordan said.
From there, departments developed, until the entire facility was organized into what it is today, Davis explained. The logistical requirement of starting a ministry-based thrift store is a small, yet significant element of the Storehouse. It takes a dedicated team of volunteers working together, serving “faithfully to receive, process, price and organize all donated items,” according to the Storehouse Volunteer Guideline publication.
“We have a solid volunteer team of 50 to 60 people who work together. We really don’t encourage people off the street coming by [to volunteer], because we really want people who have a Christian principle,” Davis said. “We ask that [those who wish to volunteer] go through Discover at Heritage – that’s the program that they go through and find out everything about our church.”
The volunteers who comprise the “worker bee” aspect of the store are just one component of the Storehouse’s ability to pour into others in and around the community. To support local causes, proceeds from Storehouse sales are used towards helping local chapters of such organizations as the American Red Cross, the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council, Division of Family and Children Services, both the Crossroads Gospel Mission and Crossroads for Her Ministries, the Colquitt County Serenity House and local nursing homes, according to Davis and Jordan. Those various organizations and many others work in tandem with the Storehouse to address the needs of families and individuals requiring assistance – whether it be loss of a home due to fire or other circumstances.
“What we do is we work with the organization,” Hall explained. “For instance, we work closely with the Serenity House – if a mom and her kids are coming out of the Serenity House and they need clothing.”
Additionally, in keeping with its vision of serving locally and sending globally, Storehouse funds allow the mission board to support projects overseas in several different areas around the world.
Hall further explained why the mission board started the Storehouse ministry to raise money for long-term mission projects.
“We don’t really believe in the hit-and-run, go-do-a-good-deed kind of thing, we believe in having long term relationships where we can really know someone and know how we can best come alongside of what they’re already doing,” she explained.
As a result, Heritage has been in long-term relationships with several missionary projects across the globe for more than 20 years, Hall said.
“[There are] several areas in Honduras we’ve been involved over 25 years. A main project there is providing clean water, bringing water to the villages instead of them having to go down the mountain and carry buckets and water up, as well as having water purifier systems there,” she explained. “We are in Uganda, [supporting] schools, a hospital ministry and churches. In Peru there’s an orphanage where we’ve been involved for many years.”
In principle, the Storehouse works to not only address exterior needs, but also the heart of a person as well, according to Jordan.
“When people come in here shopping, most of the volunteers, even though it’s busy – we’re good listeners. and sometimes when they start pouring their story out, we discover they have needs way beyond clothes,” Jordan said.
Davis echoed Jordan, saying the Storehouse is synonymous with hope.
“We give them hope, we encourage them, we pray with them, we put them on our radar,” she explained. “You start out selling them some outfits, but then you find out their story and their other needs.”
Overall, the Storehouse is a place where things and people are offered a second chance, Hall said.
“One of our T-shirts we love says, ‘We believe in second chances.’ In so many ways our lives have been recipients of God’s grace ourselves and so we have the opportunity to give back,” she explained. “All the stuff that comes in here, you know somebody’s getting rid of it, but we’ve put love and care into it, we repurpose it, and then it becomes a treasure for somebody because of God’s grace in our lives.”
The Storehouse has been closed for donations through most of December, but will reopen on Jan. 3.
No sales are planned of January, but The Storehouse has already announced three sales in February:
• 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 3.
• 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 8.
• 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 12.
Follow them on Facebook at StorehouseThriftStore for updates.