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Community outreach going strong after 16 years

  • Volunteers of Mercy Center at Dorrisville Baptist Church include, from left, Sheila Mann, Linda Teegarden, Deloris Sharpin, Andrea Rector, Carolyn Dunn, Mary Smith, Judy Cowgur and Dena Elam. Darlene Colson was unavailable for the photo.

    Volunteers of Mercy Center at Dorrisville Baptist Church include, from left, Sheila Mann, Linda Teegarden, Deloris Sharpin, Andrea Rector, Carolyn Dunn, Mary Smith, Judy Cowgur and Dena Elam. Darlene Colson was unavailable for the photo.
    TRAVIS DENEAL/Harrisburg Register

  • Volunteers Linda Teegarden, foreground, and Sheila Mann sort clothing to put on hangers Tuesday morning prior to the opening.

    Volunteers Linda Teegarden, foreground, and Sheila Mann sort clothing to put on hangers Tuesday morning prior to the opening.
    TRAVIS DENEAL/Harrisburg Register

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 5/8/2018 12:28 PM

HARRISBURG -- It's an ordinary Tuesday morning, and the exterior of the old gymnasium at Dorrisville Baptist Church looks like it always has.

On the inside, though, it's a shopping center. Mercy Center, like it has been for 16 years, is open for business.

Mercy Center is a community outreach mission of the church, providing clothing and household goods to people who need them, according to the women who volunteer their time to host the program.

"We're open every Tuesday from 10 to 2 and people can come by here and get things that they need," volunteer Andrea Rector says. "And, there's quite a few that are able to use the things we provide."

Clothing is the primary offering, and much of the gym looks like a department store. There also are shelves with other household goods, and occasionally there are larger items.

"We usually don't handle furniture, unless there's a specific need," Rector said. "Sometimes, we'll know of a family needing a certain piece of furniture and if someone donates the right piece, we can hold it for a short time. But usually it's clothes and smaller items." she said.

Volunteer Dena Elam said those with furniture needs often are referred to a different Harrisburg church that specializes in redistributing donated furniture.

Rector and Elam said local families who want to shop are allowed to participate once a month. There are other events through Mercy Center as well, they said.

"We also have a back-to-school giveaway, which has been very popular," Elam said. "Last year, we had about 400 go through."

There's a meal as well, the last Tuesday of each month, which starts at about 11:30 a.m., she said.

Rector said they work with other groups as well.

"We have a program with the prison to donate clothes, plus we work with nursing homes and the homeless," Rector said. "Plus, we talk with other clothing donation centers. We share if we have an abundance."

In addition, private church-based counseling is available through Mercy Center as well, she said.

She also said Egyptian Mental Health Department and other agencies bring clients to Mercy Center, and recently, people from Crittenden County, Kentucky were helped. A tornado caused quite a bit of destruction earlier this spring in that area, leaving many people with little to nothing, she said.

The massive store of items appears to require a lot of setup, and the ladies at Mercy Center say they can't do it alone.

"Every year, Ron Reed's church, Liberty Baptist, has a youth outreach program where they come up here and help us open the store," Elam said. "We couldn't do it without them."

She said Carrier Mills First Baptist Church, under the direction of pastor Ryan Beck, also helps sometimes.

Other churches and groups also lend a hand from time to time, she said. Last year, for instance, a mission from Indiana came to help.

Also, both women said, the program continues to rely on donations. Those wishing to donate are directed to call the church's office at (618) 252-1862.

In the meantime, the program continues to find people to help, Rector said.

"As long as there is a need, we will provide," she said.