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Nonprofit relocating thrift store to old armory

POSTED: January 21, 2014 12:14 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

John Allin paints inside the old National Guard Armory on Canton Highway in preparation for the site becoming home to Cumming Home Ministries' thrift store.

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A ministry that helps men improve their lives after they’ve become homeless has experienced significant growth in recent months.

David Allen, board chairman of Cumming Home Ministries, said the program began with one home that provided transitional housing for men who had nowhere to live after a job loss, drug and alcohol problems or being released from prison.

A third home is now being renovated to assist even more men and the organization’s thrift store soon will relocate to the former National Guard armory site on Canton Highway.

The ministry will receive financial boost for the move through Allen, who was recently recognized by his employer, Wells Fargo, with a volunteer award in honor of his dedication to the nonprofit.

The award comes with a $1,000 donation to Cumming Home Ministries, which began in 2011 and opened its thrift store in fall 2012.

This was Allen’s second time during his three-year employment with Wells Fargo to receive the $1,000 award. He also was recognized last year as the volunteer of the year for the entire metro Atlanta area.

Allen said he was deeply honored to again receive the recognition from his employer.

“To see how Wells Fargo embraces the whole concept of volunteering and pouring into the community, it was incredible for me personally,” he said.

No less incredible has been the growth of Cumming Home Ministries.

“It’s been an amazing ride to see how much really God has opened the doors for us to connect with a lot more people in the community … more than we thought we would in this short amount of time frame,” Allen said.

He said the community has embraced the thrift store, at 433 Canton Road, Suite 213, which is used to support the transitional housing program for men.

Currently there are 11 men in the program. It has helped about 30 since it began.

“We’re transitional housing, so we want to help these men get jobs if they’re not already employed,” Allen said. “While they’re in that phase of finding employment, we offer for them to work at the thrift store a certain number of hours a week to kind of cover the costs of their housing.

“We have a fee we charge for rent because it’s reality that you do have to pay for your housing. If they can’t do that, they can earn what we call a rent voucher through working at the thrift store.”

Even those who have outside employment are asked to give at least four hours each week to the thrift store or helping renovate the third home.

Several of the men have also been helping to spruce up the old armory, which Allen hopes will be ready to open by month’s end.

“This latest step that we’ve taken is a big leap of faith for us because of the financial commitments that we stepped up to,” he said. “The story behind that is amazing because God opened the doors.”

According to Allen, leaders were first told the facility would be about five times the amount they could afford, and later that it had been leased to someone else, so they shouldn’t bother asking to look at it.

“It was just one thing after another, but we just felt like we were supposed to be in that building,” Allen said. “The owner then reduced the rate to over half what he was originally asking and all of a sudden we went from standing outside of the building two months ago to standing inside of it last Saturday and getting the keys.”

Case Koolhaas, another volunteer with the organization, said the new space, which is nearly 10 times that of the current thrift store, will open up many other community outreach possibilities.

“We have about 9,500 square feet upstairs for the thrift store, but then there’s also another nearly 9,500 square feet on the bottom level,” he said. “We hope to be able to offer some other programs such as maybe a food distribution center or areas for youth activities.”

Allen said he would eventually like to see the space used as “a hub, where we can be a connection point for different people and organizations in the community.”

But the main focus of the ministry remains transitional housing for homeless men, which hopefully helps them become better people.

“It’s a transitional process where we’re hoping the circumstances they were in when they came to us are improved such that now they can transition to a more stable and better environment past that,” Allen said.

“We’re not really focusing on trying to see a finished product so much as trying to contribute to a growing process in a person’s life … and we have to believe that seeds were planted such that they’re going to grow into what God wants them to be at some point down their path.”

 

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