Rathdrum church starts We’ve Got Stuff
When clients of North Idaho social service agencies need household goods but cannot afford to pay for them, the agencies often call We’ve Got Stuff.
|Molly Shirey and volunteers at "We've Got Stuff"|
Founded by Molly Shirey with the help of other members of New Life Community Church in Rathdrum, Idaho, We’ve Got Stuff provides “everything from cups to couches” free of charge to people the ministry assists.
Recently, several volunteers gathered with Molly to reflect on the church’s three-year-old outreach ministry.
It began when members of one of the church’s home groups discussed ways to help those in need in their congregation. A family in their group needed some beds but could not afford them. Their children were sleeping on the floor. The group met that need.
The volunteers concluded that if one in their group had that kind of need, others might too. They announced to the church that they set aside an area in the back of the sanctuary where people could put nice things they no longer needed and someone else might use.
They learned, however, that members of New Life Community Church are givers, not takers. So We’ve Got Stuff branched out.
They hooked up with Fresh Start, which works with homeless people in the Coeur d’Alene area. Fresh Start connected them with Dirne Outreach, which helps homeless people find housing.
We’ve Got Stuff was able to help furnish those homes.
“We began by functioning out of my garage,” said Molly, a full-time radiation therapist.
Later the group began delivering their items.
We’ve Got Stuff has formed relationships with organizations such as the Department of Health and Welfare, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Christian Community Coalition. They now receive referrals from some area social service agencies and churches. We’ve Got Stuff now serves 40 to 50 families a month.
The stories are varied.
It provides for people moving into transitional housing, and people who have to set up new households to escape domestic violence. When returning veterans need furniture, We’ve Got Stuff assists.
Volunteers help with needs for the elderly and the disabled. One client normally slept on the floor but, after surgery, needed a bed.
A mother cannot have her children returned to her care until she can provide acceptable housing.
Volunteers at We’ve Got Stuff see God’s hand in every aspect of their work, Molly said. They have had prayers answered.
When they needed expanded storage for donated goods that accumulated, a rent-free warehouse was provided. When that space was sold, another landlord, who wanted a Christian organization to occupy his storefront, approached them. They have been in that space at 1130 N. 4th in Coeur d’Alene, since May 2011.
With a storefront, We’ve Got Stuff has now opened The Estate Store. There they market fancier donations. The proceeds help to finance the ministry.
“They rely on God to provide what they need. Tithing through New Life Community Church not only helped the group start but also helps keep the program going,” Molly said.
Most of their donations come from yard sales. They have also received a few grants.
Another aspect of the ministry, said volunteer Nancy Schooley, is that volunteer couples meet with individuals or families who come to assess their needs and bring them hope. They also pray with them if the clients desire it.
Volunteer tasks range from matching lids with plastic containers to sorting utensils.
Molly’s husband Mike painted the building, makes deliveries and picks up donations at garage sales.
Hotels donate bedding, towels, TVs and lamps.
A men’s group at Friends Church in Hayden builds dressers.
Another men’s group from Emmanuel Baptist Church helps repair furniture.
“We believe it’s important for the community to be involved,” said Marsha Reese, a volunteer.
Molly said that Coeur d’Alene High School chose We’ve Got Stuff as a student community outreach project for Christmas 2010.
“Last fall, Lakes Middle School also worked with us,” she said. “We gave them backpacks and binders. We also have sent camping gear like tents, sleeping bags, coats and boots to Fresh Start. We give the Humane Society blankets and towels that are too worn for us to give to clients.
“We’ve become resourceful and frugal,” she continued. “Everything we receive finds a home. Once a motel gave us 93 curtains. What we couldn’t use, we turned into aprons for our volunteers.
“We try to maintain people’s dignity,” said Nancy, “so we give only what we would use ourselves. Our goal is to give our clients the basics, not to fill their house. Even so, we try to throw in extra touches, like a picture or two for the walls or a few toys for the children.”
“People who come into The Estate Store learn our history even if they don’t buy anything,” Marsha added. “Often they begin to help with donations.”
The volunteers admit that the work can be tiring, but when they come here and pray, they are rejuvenated, Marsha said.
“We have built deep relationships with each other,” she said. “I used to pray for friends. Now we have fellowship as we pray for each other and for the community. We lift each other up.”
Molly’s and Mike’s dream of having many groups come together in this ministry is beginning to happen.
“We are being invited into peoples’ homes,” Molly said. “We’re not overtly Christian or recruiting for the church, but we want people to know there’s unconditional love. We pray over an order and then fill it. Most clients don’t know we’re in the store.”
Molly, who helps evenings and weekends, said the program needs donated warehouse space for large items and more volunteers to help with deliveries, because they provide personal contacts with clients.
The Estate Store is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
For information, call 208-446-4382.
Copyright © April 2012 - The Fig Tree