Erwin ministry closes thrift shop, continues work at new location

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 12, 2017 at 6:03 PM

ERWIN — The Joseph's Helping Hands ministry in downtown Erwin has closed its thrift store on Union Street and moved the base of its charitable work to a new downtown location.

Recently relocated to the second level of 112 Gay St., the ministry’s immediate focus is on Thanksgiving food for 40 area families in need.

Drop-off bins for nonperishable food items are available at several Erwin locations, including the first floor of Unicoi County Courthouse; the office Unicoi County High School, Family Medical Associates at 108 Gay St. and Carroll’s Furniture near Food Lion on North Main Avenue.

Frozen turkeys and hams as well as nonperishable food items may be dropped off at Bill Lawson’s law office at 112 Gay St.

Monetary donations to help with the Thanksgiving food outreach may be made to the Joseph’s Helping Hands account at any Mountain Commerce Bank location or by mail to P.O. Box 83, Erwin, TN 37650.

A $45 sponsorship will provide all the makings of Thanksgiving meal and extra groceries for one family. The ministry is a nonprofit organization and all donations are tax deductible.

In operation since 2016, Joseph’s Helping Hands marked its one year anniversary in August.

Founded by Unicoi County High School student Joseph Greene with backing from his grandparents, Lynn and Pam Bradshaw, its mission is to “help children live better” by meeting their needs for clothing, school supplies and other essentials they may be without.

Its thrift store at 111 Union St. opened on Dec. 5 and was available for Unicoi County students to shop for free with a referral from their school. The store was also open for the public to donate good used clothing and household goods and to shop, with proceeds going to supplement the ministry.

The thrift store closed in late October immediately following the Erwin Board of Zoning Appeals’ denial of a sign ordinance variance the Bradshaws requested to keep the shop profitable.

Without the feather flags that were made illegal by this summer’s implementation of Erwin’s new comprehensive sign ordinance, Lynn Bradshaw said the store’s sales dropped by about 90 percent.

Pam Bradshaw said while the store’s sales were only enough to keep its utilities paid, the ministry was just getting a started when the sign ordinance took effect.

Since the store’s closing, she said, Joseph’s Helping Hands moved it base to the second level patio room of their home on Gay Street and is continuing its work to help children and others in need.

Last year, the ministry provided Thanksgiving food boxes to 43 local families in need. At Christmas, it provided food, toys and gifts to 50 families. After the Sevier County fires in late November, it sent a load of supplies to help families there who were impacted.

Pam Bradshaw said all of that work was accomplished mostly out of pocket but also with the support of community.

“Now that the store is closed, she said, “the ministry is still alive and has never been better. We’re still accepting good used items to distribute to people who need them. Right now our big need is for good, clean coats, boots and gloves, outerwear and seasonal clothing that people need.”

The ministry is still accepting referrals of children in need from Unicoi County schools from others in the community who come to its attention by word of mouth.

“Joseph loves this opportunity to minister directly to people’s needs,” she said. “The secondhand store was never part of his plan.”

“The secondhand store was was mine and Lynn’s plan, because we thought that it would be a way to fund it.”

She invited those who wish to help and those in need of more information about Joseph’s Helping Hands to call 423-914-7060.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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