Steve Beach (Portage Kiwanis), Curtiss Asbell (Crossroads Family Church) and Todd Willis (Crossroads) pass boxes from the moving truck to other waiting hands. | Linda Lemond/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 28, 2013 6:09AM
“You know how hard it is to move a house? I couldn’t even imagine how complicated this would be. But with the help of about 75 volunteers, it’s going really well! It’s organized chaos, but it’s very organized.”
These were the thoughts of Sandy Cherry, Portage Resale Shop board member, as those volunteers passed box after box from person to person in a huge human chain. Boxes came in the front and back doors and were quickly placed in the correct room to be unpacked. In the end, more than 130 people volunteered their time and energies in some way.
The Portage Resale Shop was originally located in the old Portage Mall. When the building it inhabited was marked for demolition, the shop moved to the front of the Hiscox Maytag Home Appliance building on Route 6. They went from paying $1 in rent to a sizable monthly rent. This cut into their mission of serving the needs of the community.
According to director Brandon Miller, “We have a ‘ministry of stuff.’ We try to provide the stuff people need, whether it be shoes, winter coats, furniture or something else. Originally, the organization was founded as a fundraising entity. That worked for a while. We were the only resale shop in town, and we had a free building. We sold everything that was donated. The first few years we gave away about $300,000.
“Then the economy changed and the needs in the community became greater. We’ve seen increased requests through the trustee’s office, schools and churches. So besides selling things to those who an afford it, we give a lot of stuff away. We have supported Gabriel’s Horn, the women and children’s shelter for years. When a resident leaves the shelter, we allow them to ‘free shop’ for clothing, furniture, pots and pans — things they didn’t think to take when they left their previous situation.”
The organization had been looking for a new facility for some time. When Miller’s father, Pastor Ken Miller, decided to retire from Portage Christian Fellowship and the membership voted to merge with Crossroads Family Church, they also decided to give their building to the Resale Shop.
“Actually, the building was given to the Christian community of compassion. We help other agencies help people, and they in turn help us help people,” Miller said.
Moving day was an example of the community of compassion coming together for a common goal. Among the volunteers were many member of the former Portage Christian Fellowship; youth groups from several churches, including Crossroads, Grace Baptist Church, Real Life Church and St. Peter Lutheran Church; women from the United Day of Caring; member of Portage Kiwanis; members of the Hammond Clark wrestling team; and members of the Portage High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
The regular volunteers at the Resale Shop made batches of cookies for the moving crews, and the youth group of St. Peter provided lunch. A member of the local Jehovah’s Witness church brought more food as the day progressed.
“We were repairing one of our buildings and cooked for 150, but some of the crews left without eating. If you can use this, you are welcome to it.”
“This is what the people of God are supposed to do,” board member Joanne Lehmann said. “All these churches and groups working together: It’s a beautiful thing!”
Ruth Morris, who has been involved with the Resale Shop since before it first opened its doors, added, “It is just a blessing to be involved with this. We are so excited to see what can happen since God made this building available. The present director is wonderful, we have a good board, the volunteers are so dedicated and the people we help are so nice.”
The new Portage Resale Shop is located at 6450 Evergreen Ave.