Bill Blizzard reports for the Diocese of Southwest Florida about Church of the Good Shepherd, Dunedin, buying a nearby store in order to serve the poor:
“We were made up of only a few volunteers when we started. Now we have over 20 volunteers, employ four individuals from the local community and will soon welcome a store manager in the month ahead,” according to Gus Robbins-Penniman, the store’s founder and ministry leader. “Our team picks up donations of furniture and other household items throughout Pinellas County for free and resells them at the shop for modest prices. But more than reselling furniture, we provide hope and a sense of community to a neighborhood that is hungry for both. One of the intangibles provided by this ministry is conversation and compassion. There’s not a day that goes by when someone from the local neighborhood doesn’t stop in just to say hello to a welcoming and supportive group of new friends.”
When he approached the church leadership about the idea back in 2010, Robbins-Penniman was armed with a background in property management, prior experience with the Lamb of God Thrift Store in the San Carlos district of Ft. Myers, Florida, and a dream of making the same thing happen in Dunedin. He signed a lease for the first 1,000 square feet in January, 2012. In the last six years, the furniture store has grown to 6,500 square feet, and with an average sales growth rate of 53% per year it has generated over $465,000 in revenue. This is significant, but more importantly the store has contributed $267,000 to local charities during this time.
“Today, most churches depend on their volunteers and not just Sunday morning collections to support the ministries they believe in,” according to Good Shepherd’s treasurer Joe Nixon. “We have been blessed by having members who have stepped up to the challenge. Just last year we logged over 12,500 hours of volunteer time to support our ministries. This commitment has enable us to not only serve the Greenwood community, but also assist our other ministries such as Grace House, providing transitional housing for families who have recently lost their home, Haven House, providing shelter for battered persons, Resurrection House Mission in Dade City, Florida, serving farm workers, and Meals of Hope and Pack-a-Sack, both providing food to those in need.”