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Matthew Akin, manager of the Athens Thrift Store, goes through clothes that were recently priced and racked. The store is open to the public 9 am. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Drew Douglas has always been mission minded. He has been on more mission trips than he can count to Mexico and other countries.

He has been a vital part of the First Baptist Church of Athens’ Furniture Ministry. He’s helped out with feeding the hungry with the Fry Daddy group, and he has worked with different organizations in cleanup efforts and disaster relief.

Douglas, along with help from several different groups in Athens, have opened Athens Thrift Store at 1419 A E. Tyler St., just east of Wal-Mart.

This was a vision Douglas said God gave him after a trip to Brenham. He says he had recently prayed to God to receive insight on some means to help the Athens community.

“I had a teammate at Baylor who I knew went through some hard times in life,” Douglas said. “When I found out he had turned his life over to the Lord, I also found out he was running a mission down in Brenham. I called him up, and told him I was proud of him, and asked what all he was doing.”

Douglas said after talking to him for a moment, he knew he wanted go to Brenham, and see what his teammate was involved in. He thought they might need some help from the First Baptist Church’s construction team.

“There mission is called Faith Mission,” he said. “They do everything from feeding the hungry to clothes closet, furniture ministry and helping the homeless. Where we have all these different entities doing things in Athens like the food pantry, clothes closet and feeding the hungry, all this is under Faith Mission’s umbrella, funded by a thrift store.”

Douglas said that when they got there they were working on a free clinic like our Disciples Clinic here. It was their next project.

“While we were looking at all of this stuff, we saw everything but the Thrift Store,” he said. “I don’t know why that was, except I guess the devil was trying to pull us away from it, but it stayed in my mind.”

Later on, Douglas asked his friend about the Thrift Store, and what kind of money it did annually.

“I expected him to say $50,000 to $100,000. He told me it did $600,000 annually, and that it was the reason they could fund all their projects. I mean, that’s you giving me your old blue jeans or giving me your old washer when you replace it, and the store sells it and gives the profit to charity.”

The next question Douglas had was how much could go back into the community to support entities like the local women’s shelters or food pantry, and other non-profit groups that need help. They told him is was about  half.

“I’m listening to all of this, and I’m about to fall out of my chair,” Douglas said. “I mean, I’m thinking to be able to give $300,000 a year back to the community to people who really need it is an awesome thing.”

Thirty minutes later, he and First Baptist Missions Pastor Steve Akin are back on the road, headed home, and Douglas says he wants to do this for First Baptist to help with their missions program.

“Steve being wiser than me said he thought it was a great idea, but he said I was missing the boat, and that it needed to be for the community, not First Baptist,” Douglas said. “The Lord put the general idea in my head, but I have to admit I was being a little selfish, because I knew of all our church did for missions, but Steve knew better.”

Akin knew it had to be a community-wide endeavor, and that it had to have support from all charitable people and local churches, according to Douglas.

That was in February. Douglas said he gave the project a lot of prayer, took two trips to Brenham to research their store, and consulted with his friend Ray Cockrell, about how their store was run.

The next step was to get the 501C3 non-profit status application done with help from Holdredge and Co. CPA, and that came back approved.

He then had to find a building. He looked at a building that was for sale, and the owners said they would rent it to him. The only problem is it was a bit out of the way.

Later, the owners of the building approached Douglas, and said they had a buyer, and they needed to sell. The best part was, the company that was buying the building, was moving from the building on East Tyler Street, owned by Cleo Hickman, a church member and friend, who worked with him on the rent.

After obtaining the building, First State Bank of Athens was willing to create a loan to help get him started on retro-fitting the location and buying supplies.

Matthew Akin came on board as a volunteer, and has now become the manager.

“It was all just God at work,” Douglas said. “He worked it all out where we are now in a prime location and easy access.”

Since opening it’s doors three weeks ago, the Thrift Store is averaging $500 per day, with people bringing items for donation just about every day, according to Douglas.

“We have so many people and churches who have helped with the store,” he said. “The pink ladies from the hospital are out there just about every day working on pricing and hanging clothes. I have some other guys and gals who come out to build us shelving, and whatever else we need. It’s been great.”

Douglas is quick to point out that this is not something he has done, but rather something that  God has put together.

“I could have never worked out all of this without Him,” he said. “There have been so many people that have helped. The community has embraced it, and that’s the goal I had with this venture. I want God to get the glory for all of it. This is not me, but God working in our community.”

Douglas said he is expecting it to take about a year to see the income potential, and to get all the bills paid, and then he will know what he will be able to give back to the community.

“My prayer is that this will change the lives of many people in our community, and I believe it will,” he said.

The grand opening for the Athens Thrift Store is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with free hot dogs, drinks and chips from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Donations needed are clothes, furniture, sporting goods, lawn care products, books, jewelry, small and large appliances, glassware, construction supplies, antiques, shoes and others.

For more information on pickups, contact the store at 903-675-3160, or Douglas at 903-677-7829, Matt Akin at 903-681-0858, or Ernie Ratliff at 903-677-3615.

Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through  Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  on Saturday.


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