Flint, MI— Inside the basement of Grace Emmanuel Baptist Church sits a thrift store, stocked with everything from gently used baby clothes to UGGs with the tags still attached. 

Except, it’s not really a store in the traditional sense. The items are free to Flint residents who can “shop” for anything they might need.

“The Lord gave me this vision years and years ago, that whatever need a person has, they ought to be able to come to their church to have it met,” Senior Pastor Rabon Turner said.

The store started as a coat drive for Carriage Town Ministries, a Flint shelter and resource center, in November 2020. 

Turner said he asked his congregation to donate around 75 coats and they came through with over 200. 

“The idea kind of just blossomed into, ‘Well, if we can do that with winter coats, what other types of things can we do?’” Turner said. 

Now, the store holds over 7,000 items, all donated and inventoried by volunteers from the church. Since opening in April 2021, they’ve given away more than 2,500 items. 

Turner said the store is a needed resource for Flint’s south side. 

“There’s a lot of resources that seem to be geared towards the north side, which is fine, but I think, a lot of times, there have been instances where there has not been as much focus on the south side as needed. I don’t know of any other organization doing what we’re doing here,” Turner said.

Moving forward, he said he hopes to partner with other community organizations to expand the store and tackle other needs for south side residents. 

Economic development, self-sufficiency, and transportation are some of the key issues facing residents, Turner said. 

While the store helps with some of those needs, like supplying professional clothing for job interviews, the church has plans to further “empower” their community, Turner said. 

“We’re looking at doing a 50-home initiative, buying a blighted property, and fixing it up. And, so, some of them we’re going to give away because our goal is any member or person in the community who wants to be a homeowner, they ought to be a homeowner,” he said. 

The church also hopes to give away one car each year, Turner said. 

“One of the things that I’m so grateful for with the Grace Emmanuel Church is that I go to them with what the Lord tells me, and they always exceed my expectation,” he said. 

Currently, church members supply the bulk of donations to the store, but anyone is welcome to donate, Turner said. 

He asks that donated items be gently used and clean. 

“We don’t give anybody anything that we wouldn’t wear. Sometimes we can be insulting to people who are in need because we think that because they’re in need, they’ll just take whatever. That’s not how we look at doing ministry,” Turner said. 

Donations can be dropped off at Grace Emmanuel between 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 

The church is located at 3502 Lapeer Rd, Flint, MI 48503. 

The store is open on the first and third Saturday of every month from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...