“[The gentleman] standing outside, he’s here every day with the same line: ‘I didn’t come in here to shop, I came in here to look at the women,’” the 84-year-old Cartersville resident said before the store opened on Wednesday. “He’s 90 years old and there are quite a few people who come in every day, [but] what we need is more people in Bartow County to know that we’re here. You can’t believe how many people say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know about that.’ Well, we’ve been on Main Street for 20 years.
“I’m just sorry more people don’t because the proceeds do stay here [in Bartow County] and I think that’s the most important thing. And we take referrals from all the agencies and also from the churches,” she said about the Church Shop’s community outreach efforts. “... It’s just nice to see the same ones coming in. ... Some of [the shoppers], when they come in they’ll give you a hug. [And] the ones that come every day, [they always ask], ‘How are you doing?’ It just makes you feel good.”
Formed in 1969, the Church Shop grew out of several area churches’ efforts to provide clothing to those in need. While seven churches were represented at the nonprofit’s first organizational meeting, the ministry now employs one paid worker, Diana Garcia, and is operated by 17 churches in Bartow.
All providing volunteers to help run the facility, the participating churches include First Presbyterian, Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist, Grace Baptist, Heritage Baptist, Church of the Ascension, Woffords Cross Roads Baptist, Tabernacle Baptist, White United Methodist, Bartow Cumberland Presbyterian, First Baptist, Faith Methodist, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mount Zion Baptist, Cassville Baptist, Trinity Methodist and Oak Grove.
The Church Shop presently operates at 21 W. Main St. in a building that was donated to the nonprofit in the early 1990s. The store has called several locations home since the ’60s, including the J.C. Building, Braban Hotel, a residence near the First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville and the parsonage of Gilmer Street Baptist Church.
“The first time I worked [was] a couple of days [in the 1960s] when it was over in the old Braban Hotel,” said Carte, a member of Sam Jones Memorial UMC, who volunteers six days a week at the Church Shop. “The Presbyterian men had started saving clothes for needy men at the church and then the women got involved and rented a room at the Braban, which everything was condemned except the first floor. When we were down there ... the women had to pay $30 a month for rent and never thought they’d make $30. They put zippers in men’s pants, which after all my years of sewing, I wouldn’t attempt that.
“... After that, we [were] in condemned buildings and we had to move from one to the other. I think we were in five different condemned buildings. A good friend of mine who is now deceased, we we’re in the old parsonage at Gilmer Street Baptist Church and his wife died and he brought her clothes up there. He looked around and said, ‘Kitty, you need a better place.’ And I said, ‘OK, Paul, you find us one.’ So he talked to the businessman that owned this building and that was Gene Tilley and he donated this building to us. [Now] we have volunteers from [more than 15] different churches.”
Along with assisting customers inside the Church Shop, volunteers and their churches also help fund various projects at the facility, the most recent being new shelving units and clothing racks. In the past, the nonprofit has received a new roof and needed structural improvements like the addition of one wall.
In addition to selling new and gently-used merchandise, the Church Shop’s charitable endeavors include financially assisting several nonprofits and taking referrals for clothing from the organizations and supporting churches.
The store’s proceeds also are used to provide layettes to Cartersville Medical Center’s nursery and funding local Christmas programs. Last year, the Church Shop dispersed a total of more than $6,500 to organizations, such as Bartow County Community Resources Office, Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, the Christian League for Battered Women’s Tranquility House and Bartow Family Resources.
For Jessica Mitcham, executive director of the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, the Church Shop’s monthly donation and clothing assistance is integral to her organization’s operation.
“The Community Church Shop is a really important partner in our work in a lot of different directions,” Mitcham said. “A good number of ladies from several of the churches that have supported the shelter for a long time run the Church Shop, work at the Church Shop, care for it. So they’ve known the shelter for a long time and been involved here. We keep clothing donations here at the shelter but if ever we have guests who need things or need more things than we have available, then we give them a referral and we send them over to the Church Shop. The Church Shop is happy to give them anything they need that they may have that we’re unable to provide.
“We also send overflow donations to the Church Shop. ... [Then] out of the proceeds for the Church Shop, they send us a [financial] contribution every month. So it is a relationship that goes both directions. So they help our guests, we send folks and donations over there, but then they also give back to our work and help make Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter possible.”
Mitcham continued, “Our budget to [operate] Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter is almost entirely private. Government funding at this point is about 2 percent of our total funding for the year. So overwhelmingly, the shelter is only possible because lots of folks in the community help care for it. And churches and church members locally are a big part of that, so the Church Shop kind of brings all those things together.”
To help the Church Shop continue its outreach ministry, Carte encourages additional churches to support the nonprofit and existing partners to recruit more volunteers. The store is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and Saturday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
For more information about the Church Shop, call 770-382-8445.