It’s not often that shopping and service come together, but that’s exactly what happens each time a purchase is made at the Wings of Hope Thrift Store.
A new ministry of Lyons First United Methodist Church, the thrift store is just one component of the church’s Wings of Hope Missions Outreach Center.
Opened on Dec. 7, the center also includes a food pantry and monetary assistance ministry.
Open every Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Wings of Hope Thrift Store is stocked by donations and staffed by volunteers, which allows all proceeds to go straight back into Lyons First UMC’s ministries.
In its first full month of operation, the thrift store brought in $2,000.
While the revenue certainly helps the church continue its mission to reach out and serve the community, the Wings of Hope Missions Outreach Center’s purpose is more than just monetary. The 2,800-square-foot building, which sat vacant for 20 years, sits directly on US Highway 1 in Lyons and just a few steps away from the church’s sanctuary. The high-profile location gives Lyons First UMC better visibility on the busy road, more space for its missions and outreach ministries and additional parking.
The building also now houses a multi-purpose room that honors the memory of two pillars of the church, Barbara and Billy Robertson. Bible studies, scouting ministries and other groups will be able to use and meet in this new space.
Church leaders had tossed around the idea of opening a thrift store for years, and in July 2013 the vision came together for a missions outreach center.
“We realized that there were numerous needs for our church,” said Rev. Barry Giddens, senior pastor of Lyons First UMC. “Today, excitement is in the air, not only from the new additions to our church but from the energy and excitement of members working together to serve our community for Jesus. We look forward to how this project will not only serve the community, but bring in new people who need to know our Lord and Savior.”
The church has a long history of serving the Lyons community and those in need, and the missions center helps further that, he said.
“This church already had a heart for missions, and this center just helps us live into the vision of mission outreach even more as we give back to the community,” Rev. Giddens said. “We want the thrift store to succeed, but we also want the people who walk in there to be served.”
The thrift store is also giving church members another opportunity to find their own ministries and places to serve.
Paula Krulic is a member of Lyons First UMC who helps run the thrift store. She struggled with finding her niche until she got a call from Rev. Giddens.
“I couldn’t say no when Barry asked me to help,” said Krulic, whose mother died last year. “It’s one of those things I felt led to do. I had been struggling to find a place to serve and for something to fill a hole, and this came up. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to be there because it has definitely filled me and helped me heal so fast.”
Born and raised in Lyons, it’s often said that Krulic knows “everyone, everywhere.”
But at the thrift store, she meets new people every day. Many customers become regulars who she knows by name.
The frequent interaction and conversations she and the other volunteers have with customers helps them share the good news and love of Christ more frequently and effectively.
“This gives us a chance to have one-on-conversations with them about a lot of things, and we can ask if they have a church home,” Krulic said. “We are getting to know people in a whole different way.”
Making those personal connections and being involved in the life of the community is paramount to the vitality of the church, Rev. Giddens said.
“Unless people feel that you are actively in the community and in their lives, they don’t want anything to do with your church,” he said. “That’s part of the bigger picture of what we’re doing here. We want to be involved in the community so we can give something back, but we also realize that has a direct impact on how people are involved with Lyons First UMC.
“If we are going to win Toombs County for Jesus, it has to be in large part because of how we serve the community. If we aren’t serving the community in numerous ways and avenues, there’s going to be a direct correlation with not reaching people for Christ. I believe that relationship – of service and giving back and being involved in the community – will directly correspond to the growth of this church in the future.”