NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Store Manager Blake O’Brien says that many people have no idea what goes on inside of Peninsula Rescue Mission Thrift Store in Newport News. Many people have passed by the unassuming brick building.
“I’ve heard so many people say, ‘this is my first time in here. I’ve driven by a hundred times. I thought it was a bank,’” said O'Brien.
The thrift store has decided to go beyond brick-and-mortar.
“We do a lot of things with clothes, we also do things online," O'Brien explained.
When you walk in the store on Jefferson Ave., you can immediately feel there is something different about the thrift store. One-hundred percent of their proceeds go to the Peninsula Rescue Mission, but they do more than just financially support the shelter.
“It says something to a customer when they know that every penny they have spent goes directly into allowing another man to come through our doors to have a meal, to have a hot shower," explained O'Brien.
Assistant Manager Shaun Miller who leaves every day thinking about how he can help the homeless in need, empathizes with them saying, “No one wants to land at a shelter you know.”
“A lot of times guys come here as a last resort and things have fallen apart in their life,” said Matt Tobias who works in online sales at the thrift store by putting items on eBay.
The thrift store not only supports the Peninsula Rescue Mission financially, but they are also in the business of directly changing the lives of those who come through the shelter.
“There’s a lot of people that come through the mission itself for shelter, but we have this program, we’re also a place where men from the Peninsula Rescue Mission can land and stay for six months at a time. They can work here for six days a week in exchange for being able to stay downtown and for food,” said O'Brien.
Tobias and Miller have both gone through the “Overcomers Program”.
Tobias came to the shelter as things began to fall apart in his life. He began looking for a place of stability and structure.
“It’s given me structure, given me consistency. It was something that I lacked," Tobias explained. "I did eight years in the Marine Corps. I had a bad time transitioning back into civilian life. It wasn’t until I came here that I really found a purpose. My faith has grown very strong.”
Miller turned to the shelter in 2015 when he was homeless.
"I worked my way up. I started as just a regular guy in the program. They took me in like family, they showed me the Lord,” explained Miller.
Miller said that homeless men and women don’t have many people to lean on. The thrift store has helped to restore the lives of men who are often overlooked and feel hopeless.
“Yes, we’re a thrift store. Yes, we’re a shelter. But at the end of the day, I really do think we’re here to better their lives so we can point them to the cross, and they can go on from here and do great things,” Miller said.
Those working at the thrift store have identified with the struggles of the homeless, knowing that all people are not too far from being in the same position.
“We’re all just a step away from being in this spot where we need a shelter,” said O'Brien.
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