Crisp white and brilliant coral walls create an inviting backdrop for carefully crafted displays of small household appliances, kitchen wares, home goods, furniture, toys, home décor, clothing for all ages—and much more. A sandwich board sign at the entrance offers a first welcome to any would-be shoppers at Common Good Community Store, a new thrift store within Owensboro Christian Church (2818 New Hartford Road), designed to reach and to encourage those struggling within the Owensboro community.
It all began with Cheri Searcy’s son, Preston, suggesting that she read When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Then he suggested Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity. The books tout new strategies (not give-aways) that focus on offering dignity and providing hope for those that are materially poor. Basically, the church did a U-turn from a give-away Sparrow’s Wardrobe clothing store (which began 7 years ago) to the Common Good Community Store, with the objective of transforming “good intentions into genuine lasting change,” as one reviewer of Toxic Charity so aptly said. Beyond reading the books, a group of church members visited Atlanta’s Focused Community Strategies store. That experience compelled them to recommend that the church make the switch to a thrift store. The metamorphosis did not come easily or quickly. It took months of planning and an abundance of sweat equity before the doors of Common Good Community Store opened January 6, 2015. Bonnie and Jack Hedges, along with numerous other volunteers, worked tirelessly to paint, remove old flooring, and literally transform the Sparrow’s Wardrobe into the Common Good Community Store.
Shawn Green, a former assistant minister at OCC, “laid the foundation for change,” according to Cheri, local outreach coordinator at Owensboro Christian. Shawn realized that chronic economic problems cannot be fixed with Band-aid-type give-aways. Instead, he encouraged others to catch the vision of allowing people to learn the benefits of being responsible, making better choices, and better decisions.
With the assistance of 6-8 volunteers to man the store, which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon, Common Good is a direct take-off on the highly successful outreach in Atlanta, begun by Lupton. The ultimate goal of Common Good is to allow those served to become more independent and to learn to make good choices, not simply “get it for nothing whether they need it or not,” according to Yvonne Bailey, who volunteers at CGCS weekly. No limits are set on who can shop at the store or how much can be purchased.
Volunteers who are willing to serve are the biggest assets of the Common Good store. Their work begins with soliciting quality donations. CGCS plans to seek donations via Facebook posts, church announcements and word of mouth. Donations are then processed. Items that are gently used and in good condition are placed in the store; items which might not sell are passed on to other ministries. Next, items are priced. Those modest price tags range from 50 cents to $50, perhaps $100 for an extremely large, expensive item. Cleaning, organizing and straightening are ongoing tasks for volunteers, as well as arranging creative displays within the store. To check out, patrons simply take their items to the cash register for purchase. Aside from the obvious tasks required, some unseen or unspoken needs are addressed: to simply encourage the patrons, to spontaneously pray with them, to listen and gently counsel as needed.
The organizers of The Tot, The Teen & The Wardrobe helped kick-start the inventory of CGCS with a large donation, as have individual donations from church members and the community.
How can others in the church or community come alongside and help with this venture? “Pray. Donate. Volunteer,” Lisa Clouse said. She said they aspire to have enough volunteers to staff the store on Wednesdays 4:30-6:30 p.m., Saturday mornings, and to have a crew of workers that could pick up or deliver large items. “God’s work is always evolving,” Lisa said, pointing to the new direction of the Common Good Community Store. The group being interviewed—Cheri, Lisa and Yvonne—believes that this new approach to serve the community dovetails perfectly with the mission of the church: Love God. Love Others & Reach the World.
A quick walk through the store reaffirms the store’s namesake—uncommonly good items and prices available for the Common Good.