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Concord UMC gives, receives blessings at ‘thrifter’s paradise’

For Concord United Methodist Church, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ has come not just in a room with pews and a pulpit. It has also come in a place that features clothing, bedroom and den furniture, and various knickknacks.

Since opening its Thrift Store at 8843 Kingston Pike near Cedar Bluff Road in April 2022, the church has tried to help families in need or share unused items that otherwise might have just been discarded.

“The mission of The Thrift Store is to ensure that families in the community can afford to purchase items they need and give an avenue for donors to share with others while providing a thrifter’s paradise,” said Jane Currin, director of missions for the church.

The church recently observed its first anniversary with special sales and food trailers, and Currin said the church has been pleased with how it has been able to help others. But it began its mission to lift up Christ simply by lifting heavy furniture and other items.

“We had done rummage sales for 16 years,” said Currin. “We did them once a year at first and then twice.”

They gave items left over to either the

Morgan Scott Project, an outreach ministry thrift store in those two Tennessee counties, or the Elk Garden School Community Ministry in Virginia.

But like the multiplying fishes and loaves in the Bible, the donated items kept growing. “People tried to give us stuff year-round,” said Currin with a laugh.

At the same time, a former country songwriter and producer named Lou Rennie was being helped by the church through transportation to appointments and in other ways.

“We were doing what the church is supposed to do,” said Currin of helping Rennie, whom Currin described as an outgoing and dynamic person, despite being homebound in her later years.

After Rennie died during the height of the COVID pandemic, she paid the kindness forward by leaving her home for the church.

That gave the church the idea to use the money to open a thrift store for all its excess items donated. A Christmas offering also helped fund the project.

Besides selling items to operate the store and use leftover proceeds for mission projects, the staff developed numerous partnerships with local agencies, schools and ministries to meet the needs of individuals and families through a voucher system, Currin added.

And they have done it with only three full-time people – manager Megan McNeil, assistant manager Jack Anderson, and assistant Jennifer Anderson. The store also depends on volunteers, including church and board member Lisa Stinton, who helps on Thursdays.

“I enjoy just coming in and seeing how the store is doing and talking to the other volunteers and staff,” she said while sorting some clothing. “And there’s a lot being accomplished here. People are coming in who can’t afford a lot of the things. And the prices are low.”

Among the customers taking advantage of the low prices one day recently was Matthew Girman, who said he enjoys supporting a local store that gives its proceeds to a positive cause.

“And the people here are really nice and helpful,” he said. “They don’t have any junk, and everything here is nice.”

Daniel Nealon also enjoys the camaraderie on the other end as receiving manager. He said the store is fortunate to receive so many donated items, from eclectic items to similar style items from a house being emptied, to antiques.

“It’s constant,” he said of the donations. “It doesn’t stop. Luckily, we’re very blessed with that aspect of it.”

Currin hopes the church is giving away countless blessings in return.

“I think this thrift store is building relationships with members of the congregation, but also reaching out within the community,” said the church staff member, who has worked at Concord UMC since 1988, including 26 years formerly as the youth director. “We are meeting needs and loving our neighbors as Christ mandates.”

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