Grow Hope Story #2 – Stability Requires Safety

“I had to get out of the situation.  I just had to.  I just left.” 

Those were Lara’s thoughts she shared with me as she reminisced about that cold night, she “hit the highway” in hopes of a better life.   She was living in constant fear and uncertainty…but that all changed when she made the courageous decision to escape with her children and only a few belongings!  

She drove hundreds of miles to the only safe haven she knew, her parent’s home, where she could focus on healing, getting a job, and maybe getting a place of her own one day. 

One thing we noticed about this loving mother is her willingness to now share her story with others to help them gain the confidence needed to do the same!! (Just an example of how our clients inspire us so much 🙂 

This brave young woman represents hundreds more in our community who are ready to flee to safety.  When they do escape, we are ready to provide these ladies with the practical items they need most in a timely manner, and with the utmost compassion and care! 

With a donation of just $120, a victim of domestic violence and her children can embark on a journey to safety, then eventually stability. Click here to help more families like Lara – Grow Hope 2023

*Name and specific details of this story have been changed.

Grow Hope Story #1 – From Grief to Growth

Though tragedy struck over five years ago, for Mr. Walker it feels like only yesterday.

It was 2017 when he received the devastating news that his son had been tragically murdered.  Overcome with grief, his wife passed away shortly after.

The depression that followed was more than Mr. Walker could bear, quickly taking his job and leading to homelessness.  But through this dark time, he held on to this belief – Don’t give up!  Keep your faith in God!

Over the past year, this hopeful mindset has led Mr. Walker to secure housing and an appointment at Mercy Mall.  On the day we served him, we received so much more from him – the blessing of his gentle spirit and his love for God.

At one point during our vibrant conversation he chuckled, ‘You guys remind me of being in church!’

We learn things from our clients each day!  Mr. Walker taught us that grief may stay raw and present in our lives, but through a community of support, we can grow through leaving our burdens behind!

Senior Volunteer Hall of Fame

This past summer, we were able to nominate, recognize and honor Laurie Harro during The Senior Volunteer Hall of Fame ceremony, presented by the Chesterfield County Office of Aging and Disability Services https://www.chesterfield.gov/200/Senior-Volunteer-Hall-of-Fame . Mrs. Laurie Harro, a retired schoolteacher and wife to Dwight for 38 years, serves in our housewares department and is the namesake of our well-known “Laurie’s List” used to inform donors of what is needed most in the building. She has served faithfully for 6 years, averaging 20 hours a week, while leading a team of volunteers, and assisting with email communications.  She goes above and beyond to make the clients she packs for feel loved and encouraged, even though she may never meet them. For example, she Christmas gift-wrapped a Bible storybook for families with children.  We are so blessed to have many amazing volunteers who give their time, talent, and treasure to help us fulfill the mission of Mercy Mall.

We are “Ready to Roll”

We are excited about the next decade!!

We just celebrated 10 years of service to the community, and we are ready for what God has in store for us.  We know it involves ONE BOX TRUCK…and maybe more!

Eight years ago, we felt the nudge to be either mobile, have a location in Richmond city, or have some sort of delivery service.  We weren’t exactly sure what direction we were supposed to take or why it was so important.

Our clients were driving from Richmond city all the way down Hull Street into the heart of Midlothian to receive services.  We learned through their testimonies that transportation was a huge obstacle for these individuals and families.

We had challenge after challenge with the county as we didn’t fit into any mold for zoning…along with serving and building restrictions and issues, growing pains, process challenges, difficulty managing volunteers properly, non-profit compliance hurdles, and then the pandemic hit! This was not time to think about expansion or buying a box truck!

In 2018, we conducted our very first “white-board” meeting to help us define who we are, why we exist for the client, volunteer, and the community. In that same meeting, under opportunities, someone mentioned going mobile.  In addition, at our very first Strategic Planning Meeting in 2019, the word “box truck” must have emerged 25 times as a solution to many of the obstacles we were facing in serving our clients.

So, here we are, with our first 16-foot 2013 Ford E350 box truck and we are “ready to roll” with clear vision and purpose for this arm of the ministry. We are calling the program Mercy Mall On the Move.

This box truck will serve 2 purposes:

  1.  To transport pre-packed orders during distribution events in the Richmond area and other under-served areas.

  2.  To collect critical items during neighborhood or corporate collection drives

These new programs will also provide more volunteer and outreach opportunities for groups to serve.  It’s a win/win!  With this growth on the horizon, we are looking for more volunteers to do the following:  Host-a-Drive or Volunteer in the Boutique.

Join a team that is moving and shaking in this community! We promise you’ll meet some really great people, and also have fun while encouraging and helping others!!

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Mercy Mall of VA In the center of a Sanctuary City

Volunteers and donors alike were asking, “What is Mercy Mall going to do for all of the refugees that are arriving at Ft. Lee and Ft. Pickett?”

The news from Afghanistan was unfolding so quickly. We needed to put our heads together and do what we do best…offer material relief and assistance in crisis situations.

These were the messages we were hearing:

           “All they have are the clothes on their backs”

           “There are thousands of men, women, and children…and babies being born amid the chaos.”

           “My son and his wife are the only ones helping the relief effort at Ft. Pickett; people are dropping off things daily to them and they are distributing the items the best they can.”

           “You may or may not be able to get on base, but try anyway.”

At Mercy Mall, we put aside our opinions, political stances, fears, and perceived obstacles and serve those the Lord places in our path…and this past month it was the Afghan refugees brought here by our military.

Babies needed diapers. Women needed feminine hygiene. Everyone needed underwear and toiletries!! Through our contacts and collaboration efforts, we were able to buy, sort, collect, and deliver thousands of dollars of goods onto both military bases almost immediately with the help of donors, church partners, and Mercy Mall personnel.

Currently organized efforts are underway at both bases. Team Rubicon Disaster Response team, are in position to lead the Afghan resettlement efforts at Ft. Pickett.

What happens next? We have been told that after the refugees have been screened and registered, they will be sent to sanctuary cities across the US, including the Richmond, VA area. Based on our sources, we expect about 10% of these families to settle here. That’s a lot of individuals and families who will need immediate assistance. We are ready and willing to assist in any way possible with this effort!

Final Comments:
God has commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is deep theological truth that supports and commands us to treat immigrants to our land with respect and dignity no matter how they got here. We rely on the proper authorities of the land to maintain order, peace, and justice. Thank you for entrusting us to care for those seeking asylum in this country!

“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:34

A “CASE OF HOPE” BLESSING

A simple expression of love and provision makes an impact on future generations. Read this story from Michelle S:

“I was on a hiatus from working as the Marketing Coordinator at Chick-fil-A at Westchester Commons in June 2018 and happened to be on Facebook where I saw a post about the empty food pantry at Mercy Mall.

I had been praying for the Lord to use me since I wasn’t working so I became the self-appointed neighborhood coordinator for my community of Summer Lake.

I started collecting food and other pantry staples – driving to the location and feeling very impressed with the volunteers who greeted me. I shortly thereafter began collecting baby items and other necessities from “Lori’s List!” I would post the list on our community Facebook page and our neighbors responded favorably.

Some weeks, my husband and I would make 2-3 trips per month, bringing various items from our generous neighbors. When there were specific requests such as a crib etc. – our neighbors came through with flying colors.

I even had one neighbor send me items directly through Amazon – which Hubby took straight to Mercy Mall! Our 2003 Honda Odyssey Van was a familiar sight as we both enjoyed these almost weekly trips to bring a van load of much needed items.

In January, 2020, we sold our beloved van. This made it nearly impossible to bring items to Mercy Mall – so another neighbor agreed to take over as the neighborhood coordinator (pre-Covid).

After prayer and consideration we began donating financially to Mercy Mall. It has proven to be an immense blessing to my husband and I as the needs in the community continued to grow due to the pandemic.

Toward the end of 2020, we decided to sell our home and move into a townhome community so we could financially continue to be a blessing to Mercy Mall – as well as free-up time to eventually volunteer once Covid subsided.

An email arrived explaining the “Cases of Hope” ministry and my eyes wept. My husband and I had made the decision to make a sizable donation from the proceeds of our home sale and prayed about how the money could be used to make an impact.

Our prayers were answered when our home sold quickly and allowed us to make a generous donation to “Cases of Hope,” in memory of my Mother.

The email I had read earlier hit home. My Mom had been incarcerated while pregnant with me. A friend wrote and pleaded with the judge to allow her to have her child (me), outside of the prison system.

The Salvation Army gave my Mom a suitcase filled with necessities and also provided basic necessities for me once I was born.

I do not know the entire reason why my Mom was in jail – she never dwelt on the unfortunate circumstance – but she always spoke highly of the Salvation Army and how much she appreciated having her “Case of Hope.”

It is an honor and privilege to be able to make this donation to this special ministry, in memory of my Mother – to honor her and the life she was able to give me. Through her sacrifice, I was given a wonderful childhood, rooted in the foundation of Christianity, which serves me to this day!

I know she’s smiling down from Heaven!  Thank you to everyone who continues to go above and beyond – donating time, items and money! May God continue to bless this ministry!

In Christ,

Michelle and Ingo S.”

With part of the financial gift from this family, we purchased jewelry with a note card (pictured) inserted “In Memory of Gloria S. Larson”.  Mercy Mall has packed over 600 Cases of Hope to individuals being released from 4 local prisons/programs.  Click here to be part of this amazing Mercy Mall program:  Volunteer Application.

Having Fun while Raising Funds – #MoreFunin21

Since the pandemic, we have streamlined and improved our process for receiving donations. We only accept the items that can be currently used.

If you are not having fun in ‘21 yet, you will not want to miss our next fundraiser! We have planned some fun, COVID-safe activities that are sure to raise awareness and funds that will directly support individuals and families that have been impacted by the pandemic!

If you knew us back in the pre-COVID days, then you understand how much we love to connect with our client families, donors, case managers, churches, and other community partners. Our Pop-Up Promo team would “pop up” at local businesses on a weekly basis to share the mission and spread a little joy. We live in a different world now, which means we just need to be a little more creative to share information and spread the LOVE!!

Our past Mercy Mall United fundraisers resembled a casual-style dining atmosphere with a theme like “Black and White” or a Circus theme after “The Greatest Showman” craze. We would serve food usually from El Patron (a continuous supporter of the ministry), and host amazing silent and live auctions with our very own board member, Tom Carroll, displaying his self-taught auctioneering skills. Our community partners would sponsor the event and fill tables with their beloved employees. It was an evening enjoyed by all!

We had been planning our next event since October of 2019 and it was going to be a Cinco de Mayo theme in May of 2020. I had just bought the perfect dress and I know Misi (our Director of Operations) had hers. You know the next part of the story. The country shuts down mid-March and we now have to pivot our entire operation AND our main fundraising efforts!! God provided and that is NO surprise to us…He always does…we just didn’t know how! Long story short, this 11th hour pivot will go down in Mercy Mall history as one of our biggest wins of all times!!

You see, we serve the most vulnerable population in the Richmond Metro area, many of which are not dealing with just one obstacle. They are usually dealing with a myriad of struggles that can include homelessness, joblessness, mental illness, AND no transportation. So when the pandemic hit, we were committed to do whatever it took to continue serving our clients with excellence….and being a reliable source for families to receive clothing, housewares, baby items and emergency food and toiletries. Our donors and the community saw the value in what we do and stepped up in a big way to continue supporting the mission!!

Fast forward to today and we are excited that we get to try new things! Too many people get comfortable with what they know and are afraid to fail. At Mercy Mall, one of our mottos is, “Mercy Mall – the place where nothing stays the same”. We want to do our part in trying new things and know the results are up to God. So, in keeping with a mostly virtual event, we are hosting our first big fundraiser of 2021 from April 16th to May 14th. So far, it will include an online silent auction, a virtual fashion show with some special guests, food for purchase on the front lawn, and a special treat during the last week – it’s a surprise!! Of course we hope you will stay connected to all that is going on, so please follow us on our social media platforms for up-to-date information!

Facebook Main Page
Friends of Mercy Mall Facebook (non-client)
Facebook Fundraising Page
Mercy Mall Instagram

And introducing our new one – Tik Tok

In addition, we will be inviting our current and some new Community Partners to engage in some fun in their office or virtually as they raise funds that will directly support the families we serve! Are you ready to have some fun in ‘21? We hope so!!

If you are not receiving our weekly newsletters that are sent out on Monday mornings, Click Here.

We hope to see you engaging with us! If you have any questions, please email stacey@mercymallva.org.

Praying for a Miracle

Our clients amaze us with their faith, tenacity and ability to see the positive in the midst of adverse situations. This story is about one client; a domestic violence survivor – she left her abuser, in a pandemic, on faith that God would sustain her and keep her and her daughter safe. They lived in a hotel for months, and just recently got into new housing. When she came to pick up her clothing and household items from Mercy Mall, she was beside herself
~ praising God and worshiping Him right there in our parking lot.

In the midst of her hard times, she was a light to us, serving at the boutique, seeing God’s presence and love shining out of her.  Whether they know about His love and light or not, our clients need to know that God’s people love them – and that’s what YOUR donations do
~ help us share that love and light with those who may be in darkness. You help us be the hands and feet of Jesus to individuals and families in crisis, in a time when they may be hearing “no” or “not right now” from other organizations.

This family had been praying for a miracle and we were able to be a part of her receiving it. Yes, that means we get “all the good feelings” here at the boutique- but we hope you know that as all of you are donating, sponsoring, sharing our message with others- you are a part of this family’s miracle as well. God is using your virtual volunteering to bless local families in crisis.