Ministerial Alliance meeting needs of underprivileged

By Sheryl Stanley

Harrisonville is a proud city.  Proud of its schools. Its parks. Its rich history centered on the square. And the many local churches that anchor neighborhoods and enrich lives. 

The Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance, an organization of which the city is also proud, is a natural outgrowth of those churches. The Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance has existed for more than 40 years and today includes clergy members and lay people from 15 local churches. They meet to share, support, encourage and pray for each other and the community.  

But the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance also does tangible things that benefit the city and the county, and is probably best known for its three key service areas, the Thrift Store, the Shepherd’s Staff Food Pantry and the Benevolence Fund.

The Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance continues to play a vital role in serving the underprivileged and thereby working to enhance the quality of life in Harrisonville. 

Dave Noble is the administrator of the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance and the manager of the Thrift Store at 1400 S. Commercial.

He recalls that Harrisonville’s first thrift store was opened by a private individual on the square, then moved to a facility on Oakland Street. When the alliance purchased the property in 1998, they were able to move the store to its current location and take it under their leadership and control. 

Noble estimates the thrift store serves 12,000 customers each year. The merchandise is all donated by individuals and runs the gamut from clothes and shoes for all ages, to dishes, furniture and appliances, to books and toys, to holiday decorations and seasonal items. And more. Women’s clothes are the most popular category, he said, while men’s clothes are in shortest supply. 

And the prices are good, really good. “Our prices are about half what you will find at other thrift stores.” Overall, inventory is good, he said, but notes that after the holiday season, the thrift store’s racks and shelves can be quite bare in January and February. For anyone who routinely cleans out closets or households after the first of the year, Noble promises his volunteers will save you the trouble of bringing your items to them and will gladly pick up donations at your home.  

The money raised at the thrift store helps support the Benevolence Fund. The store also helps supports two other local charities, giving clothes to Joshua House and clothing and home goods to Hope Haven. 

Plus, Noble said that very little is actually thrown away. For instance, unsold clothing is sold to Casco for a nominal fee, three cents per pound, for use in their recycling program.

Currently, the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance is building a new warehouse behind the Thrift Store which will serve as an intake point and processing center for donations. 

The organization has been setting aside funds for this project for 11 years and looks forward to its opening in January. The Peculiar Charitable Foundation, which supports the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance, contributed approximately 22 percent of the total cost in three separate gifts. 

The thrift store has approximately 50 volunteers serving in a variety of roles and a few paid employees. Noble is also quick to praise the many volunteers who help in specific tasks, including people such as Bill Shelton who is building the new warehouse and Judy Franklin who coordinates all the accounting for the alliance.

Just around the corner from the Thrift Store is the Shepherd’s Staff Food Pantry, located at 1311 Sanders St. in the former Crossroads Assembly of God building. 

The agency serves approximately 400 families each month providing nutritious foods, fresh vegetables and fruits, meats and breads to supplement a family’s food supply.

Bonnie Bauer is the director of the food pantry, assisted by Linda Smith and a cadre of volunteers. Thirteen churches send volunteers on a rotating basis to assist with the food distribution. Other service groups also send people to help on the days the pantry is open to the public. She estimates approximately 200 volunteers assist the food pantry in its mission of helping to feed Harrisonville’s less fortunate. 

While the pantry is only open from 2 to 5 p.m. Fridays, the work goes on every day. Food is donated by both individuals and businesses, large and small.

A local woman buys a truckload of food twice a year for Shepherd’s Staff. Daylight Donuts offers its unsold bakery items. The Walmart Distribution Center, as well as the local stores in Harrisonville and Raymore, donate damaged canned goods, meats and other types of foods. Truckers with excess produce will often make a gift of fresh vegetables or fruit. All of the food that is collected during the week will be given away on Fridays. 

Pantry staff and volunteers will assemble a line of available foodstuffs and load grocery carts with an assortment of foods. This helps the donation process move more quickly. Clients do not have to take time shopping from shelves, but instead receive the loaded carts and transfer groceries to their vehicles. 

To be eligible for assistance, people must provide proof of residency, such as a utility bill or a property tax receipt, in one of seven local zip codes. Anyone living outside this area is encouraged to seek assistance at a pantry closer to his or her home.    

Smith said people should never feel ashamed to ask for assistance from the food pantry. “We are here to help and everyone is welcome.”

The Ministerial Alliance’s Benevolence Fund is not as visible as the thrift store or the food pantry, but it is nevertheless an important component of the group’s outreach.

Noble coordinates the individual gifts which can provide up to $100 in financial assistance to local families for utilities, mortgage or rent payments or medicine. The fund will also pay for one-night motel rooms for people traveling through Harrisonville, particularly if the group includes children. 

The benevolence funds go to Cass County residents only. Money comes from private donations, from the United Way of Greater Kansas City and from the Peculiar Charitable Foundation. 

Noble said one of the easiest ways to give is to sign up for the Helping Hands program administered by the city in which people pledge to pay either $2 or $5 extra with their utility bills. The extra amount then goes to the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance for use in the benevolence fund. 

The benevolence fund is designed to cover the basics in emergency situations. “We always run out of funds before the month is over. Usually, the demand simply exceeds the money available,” Noble said. But he recalls with pride how the city responded two years ago when the Twin Oaks Apartments were heavily damaged by fire. Following that disaster, donations poured in and the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance distributed more than $9,000, the largest outlay ever, to the victims to help them in their recovery. 

While all members of the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance give their time and efforts to support their outreach programs, they also depend heavily on the volunteers who work at the thrift store and the food pantry. Both Noble and Bauer point out that people gather each day before the doors open for a prayer.  For more information about volunteer opportunities or to discuss donations to the organization, call Noble at 816-380-3505.

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