By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
RUSTON – Business is booming for the Rolling Hills Ministries’ thrift stores with no signs of slowing in sight.
Unexpected warm weather in February not only caused an early need for donations in the thrift stores, but the demand has also spilled over into Monroe – the future site of a new thrift store ministry location.
The ministry has purchased land at 5339 Desiard St. in Monroe to construct its fourth thrift store. A possible ground breaking is scheduled for April, with a projected completion date of late December.
Financial donations for making a difference in Monroe are being accepted for the $1.8 million thrift store ministry center.
Once complete, the 14,000-sq.-ft. store will provide clothes, furniture and other items at a deeply discounted price.
The Rolling Hills Ministries’ Monroe thrift store ministry center will be partnering with the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, and will be offering a career center where women will learn job readiness skills, life skills and receive spiritual guidance.
“Our hope is the ladies will gain spiritual and educational assistance through the career center, and develop needed skills by volunteering in the thrift store ,” said John Cowling, Rolling Hills director of ministries.
When the Monroe location opens, it will be the first major project for any of its thrift stores since the Bossier City thrift store opened in August 2014.
Its other thrift stores in Arcadia, Bossier City and Ruston are currently experiencing an immediate need for clothes, furniture, shoes and linens.
“Normally this time of the year, we are slow because the weather is usually cooler and people haven’t cleaned out their closets yet,” said David Abernathy, executive director of Rolling Hills. “But this year, business is booming. Because we really haven’t had a winter, people are coming in and needing clothes, knick knacks and other items that we are running low on.”
Drop-off locations are:
1820 North Railroad Ave., 71001
Call 318-263-4822 for a donation pick up!
24-hour donation drop off
2695 E Texas St, LA 71111
Call 318-562-3880 for a donation pick up!
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for donations
3487 Hwy. 33, LA 71270
Call 318-251-0065 for a donation pick up!
24-hour donation drop off
COUNTING GOD’S BLESSINGS
Cowling views the progress as God’s blessing on the work they do, which encompasses more than just selling low priced household items, but building relationships with those who are assisted, donate, volunteer and shop.
“It is the relationships that create an environment of love and hope as a Rolling Hills family,” he said.
Much of their work is planting seeds for sharing the Gospel.
This can come in the form of placing tracts by a cash register in the store, building relationships with community leaders through its monthly luncheons, sharing Christ through a worship service at a state park, praying for and visiting customers in the hospital, hosting a Children’s Home mobile pregnancy care center or providing free health screenings through Louisiana Tech University.
“When people walk into our store or come in contact with volunteers at other locations of ministry, they know we care, serve and love them” Cowling said. “Whatever a person’s purpose in visiting us, we love them.
“We are generous with our conversations with customers and we want to hear their stories,” he continued. “We want to know where they are coming from and how to serve them. At the end of the day, every one of us at Rolling Hills is a minister in some way as we make contact with others.”
In addition to its ministry in the thrift stores, Rolling Hills is also gearing up for disaster relief training.
Every third weekend in March Rolling Hills Ministries provides Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief Training.
Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer leaders from around the state come to Temple Baptist Church in Ruston to train volunteers in the areas of assessment, basic orientation chaplaincy, chainsaw/recovery, feeding/shower/laundry and mud-out/ash-out/recovery and feeding/shower/laundry.
Though Rolling Hills disaster teams have not responded to any major disasters in several years, 2016 was a different story.
In the weeks following historic floods in March, the ministry served as the incident command center for Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts.
They activated chaplains, assessors, feeding, mud-out, shower and laundry units.
The ministry sent more than $45,000 in gift cards which were distributed directly to flood victims, sent $2,800 to the Louisiana Baptist Convention to assist in rebuilding a home in southwestern Louisiana, and spent an additional $20,000+ in budgeted funds helping with the recovery operation.
In 2016, Rolling Hills volunteers provided more than 14,000 volunteer hours, which included their work following major flooding in the state.
And when southern Louisiana was devastated with historic flooding, the ministry stepped up again. They activated chaplains, assessors, feeding, mud-out, shower, laundry and generator units. The ministry also received, stored and transported donations from churches, schools and individuals, in addition to delivering supplies and loaning Rolling Hills’ employees to a rebuild location in that area.