BY DAVID FISHER
MARTIN (June 9) — Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, WE CARE Ministries Thrift Store closed to inside shopping on March 21. The store reopened June 3 and is now available for shopping every Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon. Also, WE CARE is offering food, rent, and utility assistance Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
“While our thrift store had to close due to COVID regulations, our ministry was committed to staying open to help our community that needed food or utility bill assistance during this time,” WE CARE Director Betty Baker said. “Our office was considered an essential service and did not shut down.”
When asked, “How did you operate during the shutdown?” Baker said, “Precautions were put into place to keep our staff and clients safe during this time. For instance, only one individual per family was allowed to be in our office for assistance. As that person left, another could enter. We did not accept any community service workers or repay clients during this time.”
She added, the store’s staff continued to work behind the scenes to sort and price the many donations received while people were at home and cleaning out closets. “We had a few faithful and ‘stubborn’ volunteers that continued to come and work during this time as well,” she said.
Baker states barriers were built at counters to keep everyone safe. Additionally, WE CARE personnel did not accept any paperwork from clients during this time to keep from passing germs back and forth. She notes everyone seemed to work well within these restrictions without any problems. “The clients were great,” she said. Our biggest event was on April 21, when we had a food drive-through give-away.”
Baker explained the organization’s target group for this event were people unemployed. Many of these were people having difficulty applying for unemployment online. “Their income stopped overnight – there was no time to plan their finances for being without an income for a few weeks or months. Most of these individuals live paycheck to paycheck but pay their bills and are faithful employees. This experience led many to our doors and their first words were ‘I have never been in this situation before.’ One of the things that I have learned over the years is that anyone can be poor for a moment, regardless of the kind of car they drive or the house they live in. If you have never found yourself in that situation, then drop to your knees and thank God, because it can happen to any of us.”
Regarding the precautions taken for customers entering the store, Baker said, “Masks are optional.”
According to Baker, WE CARE is the local mission in Weakley County. The organization does not ask or receive any government support. The ministry is supported by churches, individuals, local businesses, community service groups and United Way and Catholic Charities grants that support the faith-based ministry.
“We have 13 programs of assistance in our community. The programs that are most familiar to our community are the food bank, utility and rent support, school supplies for children grades K-12, dental program, assistance with clothing, household, baby needs and our Christmas program.
“Our newest program is ‘Rise Above’, which we began this year to help a person in vocational school struggling with bills, school and a family. We are working alongside the individual to help them to stay in school and complete their course and rise above their circumstances. When you help individuals increase their work opportunities and they can rise above the poverty level with better skills. This can impact the next generation, as children see mom or dad go to work every day and invest in a better future for their children. Other programs are our thrift store, education and literacy, business and industry partners, WE CARE Kids, Encouragement Devotional Service every second Sunday, and there is a waiting list for paid meal support for Meals on Wheels for the elderly.
According to Baker, WE CARE was approached to host a dairy product distribution at the end of June. WE CARE is adding additional items to the distribution, which complement these milk products. She states Prairie Farm Dairies has a program with the USDA to assist local dairy producers to use the surplus dairy products. “We will be looking for volunteers to help us with this distribution at WE CARE the last week of June,” Baker said. “Please watch Facebook WE CARE Thrift Martin, our website www.wecareministries.net or call our office for more information if you would like to assist with this event. We will also be providing more details through the local news media.”
WE CARE Ministries began in 1973 by the First United Methodist Church of Martin with a donation for $3,600 designated to be used for people and not for bricks and mortar. This provided the seed money for WE CARE to begin a ministry with transportation and emergency assistance. The Thrift Store followed a year later. In 1990 WE CARE expanded into an ecumenically supported ministry followed by a growth in 2002 offering eight programs of assistance. Seven denominations participate actively in the ministry. By combining the resources of the churches within the community, businesses, schools and individuals, WE CARE is able to better serve the community by assisting more people the same rather than duplicating efforts.”
Baker recalled WE CARE moved into its present location September 14, 2003. The store now has a staff of 14. Most are part-time employees, and the organization averages 75 volunteers a week.
“Our mission statement is, ‘Offering the Hope of Christ beyond the Help of the Crisis.’ For us, our mission is to help a client through the crisis of food or financial assistance but more importantly, this is a chance to help them see beyond their problems to the hope that Christ alone can give no matter how difficult the circumstances,” Baker said.
“We pray this crisis is behind us. Our community is best served when people have jobs and opportunities available. Our store and other stores in the community need to be open for sales and have sales tax to help build up our community. Everything is a revolving circle – people need jobs, jobs provide income, income provides sales, sales tax provides jobs and opportunities for growth and the circle continues.”
For more information, contact WE CARE Ministries, Inc. call (731) 587-6257, go online at @WECAREMinistriesTHRIFT, or mail correspondence to the following address:
WE CARE Ministries, Inc
530 North Lindell St.
P.O. Box 292
Martin, TN 38237
BY DAVID FISHER