Ten years ago, a group of women at Myers Park United Methodist Church tossed around an idea to open a little bookstore in the church’s new building addition.
The more they talked, the more the idea grew. They could serve coffee. They could sell baby gifts.
“It just blossomed,” said church member Jean Cannon.
This week, Goodness Gracious! gift shop celebrates its 10th anniversary. It has given almost $300,000 in proceeds to local, national and international missions organizations.
“It has been a joy,” said Cannon, one of the founders of Goodness Gracious! and the shop’s ministry team leader. “It’s so inspirational.”
As ideas for Goodness Gracious! crystallized 10 years ago, the church offered the shop what Cannon considers the best room in the new Parish Life Building, a space in the lobby by the front door. The Luther Snyder Sunday school class, along with a few individuals, donated startup costs.
Volunteers scoured thrift shops for bookcases and display tables for the shop, and they began ordering items to sell from merchandise markets.
Except for short stints where the shop hired a manager and a part-time employee during a few summers, the shop has been entirely run by volunteers. It is open five days a week, including Sunday mornings.
Many of its founders had business experience, but none had started a business from scratch. They’ve had to learn everything from how to choose merchandise that sells to how to make a Facebook page for the shop.
The shop is filled with gifts, books, Bibles and cards, including jewelry, scarves, baby items and books written by church staff.
Over the years, many of the volunteers have become close friends. They’ve celebrated the births of each others’ children and grandchildren and mourned the death of treasured volunteers.
“It’s been so great to have all of these women come together and make great friendships,” Cannon said. “It’s a really welcoming place.”
The shop’s ongoing mission has been to donate all proceeds to charities, which a board of store volunteers chooses. On Sept. 26, in celebration of the shop’s official anniversary, Goodness Gracious! announced a donation of $35,000 that will be divided among five nonprofit organizations.
The shop is open to the community, and people have learned about it through word of mouth and some advertising. Many stop by to shop or have a cup of coffee and end up chatting with volunteers or other shoppers.
“There has been a lot of laughter and tears,” Cannon said. “It’s a wonderful place for people to have fellowship.”
Sonya Charles, an original volunteer at Goodness Gracious!, said she joined the project because she wanted to be part of its mission work.
A former church preschool teacher, Charles enjoys reconnecting with parents when they stop by the shop.
“I get to see many of the members and meet members I don’t know,” she said.
As it enters its second decade, the shop continues to recruit volunteers and spread the word about its mission. Shoppers rarely leave without buying a gift.
“They know that every present they buy, they’re giving a double gift,” Cannon said. “That’s the joy of it.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for marty? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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