The VOICE of Inspiration
By Don Lindsey
A couple of columns ago, I spoke about winter in Florida and how different it is from up north. While it is vastly different, we have been getting some cold temperatures recently and as I was driving the other day, I saw a man on the side of the road with his dog, holding a sign saying that they were homeless and needing help. I couldn’t help and that was upsetting, however, as I thought about it more, the upset turned to a grave concern for our area’s homeless population. I began to wonder how many area shelters were open with space available because in the past when I’ve searched shelters out to help people in crisis situations, it was hard finding one with a spot open. I also wondered if there were any places available that provided warm clothing and other items to help folks stay warm. That’s when I remembered the area thrift stores for the homeless. There are several, and today I will focus on three of them.
The first organization I will be highlighting today is called the Hope Chest. An extension of Hope Helps, an organization that works to combat homelessness, this thrift shop does so much more than provide great deals on the items that they sell.
When the volunteers learn of a family or individual who is in crisis, they spring into action. For homeless families, they work to find housing and then provide basic needs for them. For folks in crisis situations, they give anything they can to make that person/person’s situation bearable. The profits that they make go back into the organization to help provide the items they can use to help. Some of those proceeds also go towards helping with rent, utilities, and car repair. They also partner with local agencies and faith-based organizations who will refer families to the Hope Chest who then provides things such as clothes, school supplies, shoes, household items and baby accessories. The Hope Chest is located at 1802 Broadway St. in Oviedo, if your looking for a thrift store who gives back to the community and offers good deals on the items that they sell. You can also go to www.hopehelps.org and click on “thrift store” to learn more.
The next store is called the Christian Sharing Center. Founded in 1986, this organization’s focus is to end hunger, homelessness and to help people who are facing a crisis. Like the Hope Chest, the Christian Sharing Center uses its donations to further help its families or individuals in need. Those donations can be anything from clothing and shoes, to household appliances and so much more. The outreach program that they run, gives over $600,000 each year with last year seeing a 100,000 more than that. Over 5,800 clothing vouchers were given out last year as well. Once a family request help, they are provided a case manager who will work with the family to identify their needs. Once they are in the program, the case manager will issue vouchers for clothing, or other items that the family needs. They accept donations at their distribution center behind the thrift store at 600 N. Highway 17-92 suite 58. They also accept monetary donations on their website which is, thesharingcenter.org.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Forest Lake gift and thrift shop located at 530 Harley Lester Lane in Apopka. This shop as with the other two works to aid members of the community that are in need. Serving five zip codes, Forest Lake offers low pricing on clothes, household items, and food. They also provide one-time assistance in the form of rent assistance, utility assistance, bus passes, Publix gift cards and restaurant gift cards. They use their funds to help with business operation cost along with helping other area non-profit organizations to provide food and essential items to those in need. Leading with love and the example provided by Jesus, this group of folks does a tremendous service to our community. More information on this organization can be found at www.flgat.com.
As I researched these organizations, I couldn’t help but be inspired. With homelessness the way it is, not just in our area but around the world, knowing that there are helping hands such as three groups doing what they can to help, gives me hope that the fight against homelessness is not lost.
Don Lindsey is a follower of Christ, son, husband, father, and a survivor. Originally from Dayton Ohio, and resident of Apopka for six years, Don sees his life as a dedication to his wife, parents, children, and community.