Grow Hope Story #7 – A Sister is a Best Friend

Proverbs 3:15 – She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

A large number of clients have to lean on other family members for housing support, whether it’s doubling or tripling up or having multiple generations living in one home.  We see this all the time, but it’s not always a bad thing! 

The Virginia Department of Health referred Ana to us to help provide items their home was lacking as well as much-needed baby items.  She was due any day, so we can understand why she was a bit anxious…and a little scared.    

Her sister, Cecia, vowed to be right by her side through it all; our volunteers were touched by the adoration the sisters had for each other.  

Some living situations may not be ideal, but the only option for our clients during this affordable housing shortage.  Some are making it work and inspiring others to do things like other cultures have done for years!  

Ana, brimming with excitement, can’t wait to bring this baby home with all the love from her family…and the baby supplies she needs, thanks to the kind donations from donors like you! Your $200 donation will serve a new mom like Ana, with much needed baby items and practical gear, like car seats and pack-n-plays!  Together we can Grow Hope!! 

Grow Hope Story #6 – From Homeless to Hopeful

“We were homeless for three months…wouldn’t wish that on anyone!”

Gabrielle, her husband and two toddlers had to move out of the home she shared with her sister’s family due to an unsettled dispute. Living in the car was their only option. 

We were impressed by their fierce loyalty and huge heart for her family as they navigated the homeless landscape with optimism and bravery.  

We met this family when they were on the path to putting their lives back together after being rehomed…and were able to provide winter clothing for the entire family and some practical household items.  

They would love to thank their employers who had great grace and understanding during this whole transition – you all are angels!  

Gabrielle has since started caring for her 9-month old niece, but is hopeful for the future of their family. Thank you to all those who have helped them along this path!! 

 If you want to assist families like this who are doing all they can to provide and protect their children, even through living in a car, we welcome you to do so by texting “growhope23” to 44-321 or simply clicking this link:  Help Us Grow Hope Today!!

Grow Hope Story #5 – Unexpected Blessings – Twins!!

Sometimes, families need a little extra help as they navigate the unexpected!

When the Lewis family found out they were having twins, they were over the moon!  Already a family of six, with 4 school-aged children, they knew it would be tough financially.  

The baby girls arrived early and needed extra care in the hospital as well as specialty formula and insurance didn’t cover everything.  

Serving families as they overcome a crisis is at the heart of what we do…and crisis doesn’t wait.  At Mercy Mall, we are in the business of serving families who have immediate needs caused by a transition or change in circumstances.  

With your donations, we are able to provide individuals and families, like the Lewis’s, baby items like clothing, diapers, formula, and baby equipment… so the focus can be on all the other responsibilities of raising a family!!

What we loved about this family is their undeniable love, joy, and delight in who their children were becoming.  They absolutely glowed as they shared stories of their accomplishments!  Thank you, Lewis family, for being such dedicated parents – what an inspiration you both are!

Your $200 donation helps us to serve newborns like the Lewis twins with much needed baby items and practical gear, like car seats and pack and plays!  Together we can Grow Hope!!

Grow Hope Story #4 – She Has a Story to Tell

“One day, I’m gonna write a book!” she says after sharing her story of redemption. 

From growing up in foster care, being sexually assaulted, and homeless at 14 to living in abandoned homes, vacant places, parks, and dealing with homes with water issues and fire…plus being attacked by a dog leaving scars, getting kicked out, and receiving drug charges due to having the wrong friends…Ms. Halston definitely has a story to tell!! 

Like so many we serve, it feels like “…one step forward and two steps back,” but she has never lost hope and continues the momentum forward.  Ms. Halston is stable now and aspires to write a book to hopefully help other women on this journey to stability.   

At Mercy Mall, we want to create a safe space where clients can receive quality items and share their stories without judgment. Our front lobby prayer warriors provide the utmost care and compassion, offer a beverage, provide resources, and are a listening ear to hundreds of clients each year who have a story to tell!  

Would you help us continue to give a voice to those in our community who are overcoming obstacles to stability?  A $70 donation allows us to serve a mother and her child with practical items when they need it most!  Together we can Grow Hope!!

Grow Hope Story #3 – Family First

For countless families around the world, the United States is a beacon of refuge and opportunity.  That bright dream has kept the Keskin family energized!  

We recently met this sweet family from Turkey in our lobby.  You may recognize Mr. Keskin and know him more affectionately as ‘Gogo’, the ice cream man!

Gogo has poured his heart into creating a safe home for his wife and young child, started his own business (Gogo Ice Cream), and was on the path to building financial security…until the recent recession that caused his costs to go up and sales down!

Finances may be tight, but his spirits haven’t been dampened!  GoGo lives for his family and is determined to put a smile on the face of each person he meets, including us here at Mercy Mall!!

Transitioning to life in a new country poses many challenges, many of which our brave clients overcome through hard work and creativity! We are so thankful to provide families like Gogo’s practical items which help ease the transition and financial burden. This way, they can continue the dream of making a better future for them and their loved ones. 

A $120 donation serves a family like the Keskins and allows them the opportunity to focus on their family!  Help Us Grow Hope Today!!

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