Free Store marks 25th year in aiding local families

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The Christian Outreach Free Store at the Rising Sun Church of Christ has been serving the community for 25 years.

On Sunday, Nov. 19th, members of the church along with others from the First Baptist Church and Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ came together to bag up 100 Thanksgiving meals which were distributed on Monday evening.

The bags included peas, corn, cranberry, cake mix and frosting, yams, and stuffing with rolls and turkeys available on Monday.

It’s a community effort as First Baptist Pastor Jim Jenkins pointed out. “We are from different churches but we worship the same Lord,” he prayed. “The needs of our community our bigger than anyone of us.”

Scott Lovern has been in charge of the free store throughout the years and is thankful for everybody who helps out. They received 54 boxes including meals and turkeys from the Crossroads Christian Church near Mason Ohio. The church members there get a list of items and fill a box which was brought to the church Sunday. Alan and Tracy Lozier went to Mason to bring them back to Rising Sun.

An additional 30 turkeys came from veterinarian Steve Hubbard in Bright. He is a member of the Wild Turkey Federation and has been donating the turkeys for years, noted Lovern.

An additional 100 turkeys (10-12 pounds) are purchased through Tandy’s IGA allowing for enough to hand out during the Christmas season as well.

As the need increases, Lovern says plans are to move the store from the present location to the Shack which once housed youth groups.

“We have been praying about this for a year then one day we received an email that there was grant money available,” he added. The church has applied for a $25,000 grant from the Cincinnati Free Store Food Bank to help fix up the Shack including a required restroom and different heating. They should know how much ,if any, they will receive in December.

Regardless they will make the move for next year. With more room, it will make the process a lot easier.

Free store vision

The free store concept was the vision of the late Al and Jean Byars. It opened in March of 1992 and was located in the Church of Christ’s parsonage. Immediately it had plenty of clothes, shoes and toy donations. The Byars financed the monthly budget ($200) to buy enough food for the initial 10 to 20 families who were being assisted each week.

The store was moved to the former police station at Main and Walnut Streets (now home to the tourism office) from September 1992 to August 1993. There were 15 to 20 families served during that time.

Byars financed renovating the barn at the church as it returned to the current site in September 1993. After more renovating (financed by Byars), the leaders began purchasing food at the Cincinnati Food Bank.

At one time the store served approximately 90 to 100 families a month which included residents of Switzerland County (who now get assistance from Quercus Grove and Vevay food pantries).

There are approximately 80 families served each month. Most of those come each week for assistance.

Volunteers man the free store on Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.