By Lori Pawlowski
I recently had the pleasure of spending the day at Twice Blessed Free Store, an outreach ministry of the Rocky River United Methodist Church and one of only 60 free stores in the United States. According to the organization, “Twice Blessed provides clothing, household items, and toiletries free of charge. We welcome everyone who enters our store with open arms. We do not have income or other eligibility requirements for our guests.”
So how does it work? Customers line up outside the doors of 6515 Bridge Avenue every Saturday morning. Each family receives a ticket. Those with the first 20 tickets shop first; the rest of the shoppers wait inside the chapel for their number to be called. Once their number is called, they have the opportunity to shop for each member of their family. Free of charge! There are racks of clothes sorted by size, shoes, toys, housewares, etc.
When we arrived at the store as part of Building Hope in the City‘s City Serve 2016 day of service, my 9-yr-old son and I were chosen to be “runners.” Our job was to escort people to the downstairs bathroom. Okay, so it wasn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but we enjoyed the fact that it gave us a chance to interact with some of the customers. And witnessing the personal connections between regular shoppers and long-time volunteers was evidence that this little shop’s mission goes way beyond “free stuff.”
Many of the “regulars” bring their own bags or carts, which must be left at the front door while they shop. Because of this, the long-time volunteer who hands out the tickets decided to create name tags for the customers. When regular shoppers walk in on Saturday, they see a familiar face and are given a personalized name tag to clip to their cart or bag. The smile on each customer’s face, knowing they are welcome, respected and recognized, is reason enough to support this small but mighty outreach.
So the next time you are cleaning out closets or want to spend an afternoon of service, consider visiting the Twice Blessed Free Store, a wonderful ministry, full of compassion. All of the volunteers were humble and kind. They handed out lots of hugs and smiles, and no judgment. I left feeling blessed.
1. VOLUNTEER: There are many opportunities to serve, from sorting clothes to helping people shop. The store has regular volunteer hours on Mondays and Saturdays. Find out more by visiting the Twice Blessed web page.
2. DONATE: Clothing, household items, toiletries and infant care items are always in demand. Financial donations are also welcome and appreciated. Details and wish lists can be found here.
3. SUPPORT Building Hope in the City, whose mission is “to see vibrant city neighborhoods anchored by dynamic congregations, which partner with city residents and communities to fuel social, relational, economic and spiritual transformation.”