L How a Texas Church is Rebuilding Lives with Neglected Shelter

By Roy Maynard

Can even a neglected resale shop with used clothes and housewares help a local church make a difference in the community? For First United Methodist Church of Jasper, it’s a clear case of, “what, this old thing?”

When Rev. Drew Weber arrived in Jasper a couple of years ago, he wanted to do more for the Piney Woods Women and Children’s Shelter, a small nonprofit serving Jasper, Newton and Tyler counties. Weber learned the church had some property it wasn’t using effectively.

“Partnering with the local women’s shelter was low-hanging fruit as a ministry opportunity,” he said. “I had very little to do with it other than help cast the vision. Faith Clotiaux took it and ran with it.”

Ms. Clotiaux shared that vision for what was then called the Henderson House.

“It was just a place we used to store donations, and I had to hold garage sales from time to time just to make space,” she explained. “But when we started talking about making it a real thrift store, something to benefit the women’s shelter, then things really started to happen.”

First, the church’s volunteers had to clear out the space and revamp it.

“We spent about two months getting it ready,” Ms. Clotiaux. “And we got a lot of the local shops donate their excess inventory to us.”

In the months since the renamed Hope House Resale Boutique opened on April 1, the effort has met with success. And the beneficiary of that success is the women’s shelter.

“Every month, we’ve increased our sales,” Ms. Clotiaux said. “Now the shelter can get a new part-time counselor, and some upgrades to the facility. We’re very happy about that.”

The women in the shelter can choose clothing and housewares to help them rebuild their lives.

“I’ll never forget the time I was at one of our evangelism events and a young client of the shelter told me that nearly everything she had was from the Hope House,” Rev. Weber said. “If I remember correctly, she pointed to her shoes and said ‘Everything I have on right now is from the Hope House except these.’ It’s amazing when we step out on faith how God uses us in powerful ways.”

But the ministry is about more than the resale shop. FUMC Jasper will also use the space for a Batterer Intervention Prevention Program, to address those who perpetrate the violence.

“We find that 97 percent of those who abuse women are repeat offenders,” Rev. Weber said. “We need more than just a Band-Aid. Now we can house a trained counselor.”

The whole church has ownership in the effort, he added. And the community is on board.

“The cooperation between our church and the shelter is unique,” Rev. Weber said. “We help them, and they allow us to serve them in the name of Christ. But what makes it truly unique is the bond we have formed with the volunteers and employees of the shelter. God loves those women, and that’s why He wants us to step up and do his work.”