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Volunteer outreach to community

The Church of Hope operates assistance program to help those in need with food pantry

Posted: January 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Assistant store manager Kathy Spears finds a place for every item donated to the thrift store at the Church of Hope in Canyon Country. Assistant store manager Kathy Spears finds a place for every item donated to the thrift store at the Church of Hope in Canyon Country.
Assistant store manager Kathy Spears finds a place for every item donated to the thrift store at the Church of Hope in Canyon Country.

Tucked between a liquor store and a pawn shop is a small unassuming store front with a big purpose. The Church of Hope has called this little store front area in Canyon Country home for more than 22 years.

Operating as a thrift shop and gift shop all week, the store undergoes a drastic transformation on Saturday nights to prepare for Sunday morning services.

A team of volunteers help to wheel racks of clothes, carts of household items, trunks of toys and shelves of books and other goods sold by the thrift store out of the way to create a worship space for the Church of Hope.

The Church began in the storefront merely because it was an easy, inexpensive location for a church just starting out. The intention, however, changed quickly. Within six months the church launched the thrift store and before its first anniversary, it had decided to open a food pantry as well.

“We saw the homeless all the time,” said assistant store manager Kathy Spears.

The church wanted to find a way — to help others in the community, while offering a supplement to its income to fund the programs two in particular, the food pantry and clothing bank for the needy and homeless.

“God loves us perfectly and unconditionally and calls on us to love each other in the same way,” said Pastor George McLeary.

All day, the little thrift shop store front is a bustling center of commerce. The needy come in for boxes of food, consumers come in to shop the scores of thrift items and brand new items sold in the adjoining gift shop.

People wanting to help the outreach stop in all day with small and big donations of food for the pantry. While others stop in mostly to see a friendly smile and chat for a bit.

“We’ve become a kind of community center in that way for the lost and the lonely,” said McLeary.

Daily Miracles

Over the past 23 years, the Church of Hope has amassed a client list for it’s food pantry that is well over 4,000 people long. The food pantry is sustained by volunteers who offer their time and donations, not only from within the church, but from dozens of other churches within the area.

The dedication of the many volunteers is what keeps the mission to help others thriving.

Some have helped for the better part of 20 years. Many are not members of the church. They simply want to help others in their community.

Mary Ann Forster has volunteered at the thrift shop for the last two years. She cites two reasons for continuing to help. She knows the donations stay right within the community and the thrift store is open everyday to help.

“It bugged me churches were empty six days a week, except for a bible study one night,” she said.

At one point the congregation discussed the idea of moving to a permanent church building. The response was overwhelmingly against the idea. Members were steadfast in the church’s mission and that meant continuing to operate as a thrift/gift shop right where the need was.

Each day, while the store front bustles with the sounds of daily life, volunteers witness the miracles that brought them to serve.

People who had no food but found help or clothing to get them to a job interview. Stories which touch their hearts and keep them working hard for those around them who need help.

“That’s everyday,” said Spears. “Everyday someone comes in who needs help.”

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