It All Started with One Broken Down Car
An inspirational example from St. Joseph, Mo., is The Grace House – whose motto is “you can have it for a smile.” Founded more than nine years ago, The Grace House provides hundreds of clothing items, coats, shoes, household items and other necessities to families who are struggling.
It’s just that simple. And just that powerful, in equal measure.
There’s no charge for any of the items, and The Grace House is set up like a store – neat racks, with all the clothing items hung up. All the housewares are creatively bundled and incredibly organized. An inventory area in the back of the store allows volunteers to meticulously sort and prepare donated items, with rows of labeled bins and even a sewing machine for items that need a little extra care. The atmosphere is dignified, and guests are treated as shoppers, with volunteers asking if there’s something in particular they’re looking for, and if they need any help, just ask.
The story behind The Grace House is one to remember. The founder and director saw a family in a broken down car with out-of-state-plates in a grocery store parking lot one cold winter night. Rather than going on in to shop, she stopped to find out more. The children were visibly upset and the situation was destitute. Immediately she secured a warm hotel room, coats, food, a car part and a great deal of encouragement, helping the family get back on their feet.
Five months later, the family returned to her, asking if they could repay her for her kindness. She explained that their smiles were all she needed, and it’s still the philosophy of The Grace House today. Over the past nine years, the 501c3 has moved homes several times, starting with the founder’s own garage and then more moves into drafty places until they landed at their present home, at 2638 Lafayette, St. Joseph, Mo.
Each year, a coat drive provides more than 700 coats to area infants, children, adults and seniors. The Grace House also hosts a blanket drive, a mitten and hat drive, and a back-to-school backpack and school clothing drive. Last year, nearly 300 new pairs of tennis shoes were donated to The Grace House for children to start the new school year; more than 680 children received a backpack with two sets of new school clothes and other needed items.
The Grace House has a website and an eNewsletter, as well as a social media presence. Yet it’s the contagious blessing of giving someone else something they need, and all for a smile, that keeps growing the donor and volunteer base. Still, the needs of the community continue to grow as well, and help is always needed.
It’s a simple formula, but profound and meaningful. Susan J. Campbell says thank you to The Grace House for all that they do behind the scenes to meet basic needs and lift up lives.