Bibleway Assembly Church (BWA), 202 Willow St. in Doe Run, is a small church with a big heart that has recently launched a free store in an effort to meet practical needs in the community.
Store organizer Liz Pyatt is also a member of the church and championed the idea of offering a free store as an outreach ministry. The BWA leadership agreed and believed they could bridge gaps to help navigate people in times of need. “The main thing is just the economy. People are struggling, even in our own church. People everywhere are struggling. Our main goal was to provide free clothes, shoes, diapers and anything that’s donated and could be useful to people.”
The free store quietly began operations about six weeks ago, but BWA is no stranger to filling the role of provider to the community. Until a recent shortage of volunteers created a gap in the required labor to continue operations, the church hosted an onsite food bank and mobile food pantry events in cooperation with the St. Louis Area Food Bank. Pyatt is hopeful that BWA will be able to resume the distributions on a monthly basis but didn’t have an estimate on what timeframe might be involved.
There are no income restrictions or residency requirements that govern admittance into the free store. “We don’t have any limits on what you can take, no income documentation before you are allowed to shop here. Basically, you just come here, take what you need and shop. It’s worked out really well without setting limits. So long as things keep working out well, we won’t make any changes,” Pyatt said.
Store inventory is provided directly through donations from the surrounding community. “Whatever we get, we pass along. We’ve been getting blessed with a lot of really good stuff. We try to reach as many people as possible and try to offer relief in the current state everybody is in.”
The current inventory consists of diapers, hygiene products, books, shoes, toys, clothing, and general household items. Pyatt said they would be “pleased” to distribute non-perishable food items if they were donated. A small amount of food items are available now.
“We have people who’ve already donated baby food, and we do have a lot of these cases of rice and lentils that came from the Kids Around the World Food Program,” she said. “So, if anyone wanted to bring food that’s non-perishable, it would be very appreciated, and we would be happy to get it in the hands of people who really need it.”
While the free store was born of necessity and housed in several small rooms at the church, Pyatt believes it is a launch zone for a future larger operation and anticipates that the needs they can fill will only continue to increase as the cost of living increases and take-home pay decreases.
“When we had the drive-up food days, we would have as many as 200 cars go through the line,” she said. “We’ve had as many as 50 families come through the free store in a day. It would be wonderful to have a whole separate building just for the outreach and be able to accept donations like furniture, which we can’t do right now because we don’t have the space for it. But we will work with what we have for now to help as many as we can.”
A shopper at the store declined to be named but wanted to express gratitude for the operation of the free store and the ability to utilize the services. “I’m shopping for clothes for extended family members, kids. When I saw the Facebook post about the free store, I was like, ‘Oh, I have to go to that.’ It’s a great resource for families because things just come up that wipe out the money, and there’s nothing left for other needed things like clothes, which aren’t cheap. This is a great thing the church is doing here, and I’m thankful to be able to come here to shop for free.”
An operation schedule hasn’t been set yet, but Pyatt plans to be open the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “People should watch the BWA Facebook page, and we’ll keep everybody posted there on the changes. Not everyone uses Facebook, so be sure to tell friends and family.”
Learn more about BWA and any announcements about the free store by visiting their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bible-Way-Assembly-of-Doe-Run/268903867336027.
Liz Pyatt is available to coordinate receiving donations and requests that she be contacted via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/liz.bridgemanpyatt.
Lisa Brotherton-Barnes is a staff writer with the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.