While students at Taylor University and Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) live in a bubble that provides housing, food and safety, that isn’t the case for a large portion of Grant County.
There are others on the outside struggling to live day-by-day, with Grant County being one of the poorest counties in Indiana.
In this need, the Grant County Rescue Mission (GCRM) has been an organization put in place since 1893 to help residents of Grant County in any possible way.
Through multiple outlets, this mission-minded nonprofit provides food seven days a week, shelter for those who need a place to sleep and a life change program.
One of these outlets has recently gained the attention of college students and residents alike in the surrounding areas: a thrift store.
Previously known as Mission Mart and Rescue Treasures, GCRM has put together a thrift store called reNEWed, where all donations and proceeds go directly back to helping those in need in Grant County.
While the names “Mission Mart” and “Rescue Treasures” accurately depicted what kind of business was going on in the thrift store, it was not entirely describing the mission itself. Thus, GCRM renamed the thrift store.
“About two years ago, we decided to rebrand because it wasn’t really representing what the mission of the mission was,” Debbie Berbereia, director of thrift operations for GCRM, said. “We are all new creations in Christ and so when people come to us with their hurts and hang ups and they’re looking for a life change program, they do become renewed.”
While the first reNEWed store popped up in Marion, a second store was quick to follow in Gas City. It is located at the previous plant-base cafe, Rabbit Food Cafe, off W Main Street.
A huge rise of popularity for the reNEWed thrift operation store in Marion, Indiana, was during the rise of COVID-19 in 2020. Its success can be described as nothing short of a miracle.
“The increase is incredible,” Berbereia shared. “This year we have been so blessed. I can’t even believe the numbers that we were able to pull off. Probably a 300% increase in sales, which is unheard of in a shutdown here.”
Whether it was during lockdown period or a time of quarantine, both intervals encouraged people to clean out their spaces due to an increase of free time.
With all this cleaning, there were more donations, and GCRM did not shut their doors to donations during COVID-19.
ReNEWed takes donations of all kinds — from clothing to furniture and appliances — with which they can provide a myriad of different products at discounted prices.
Not only do they take physical donations, but donations of time through those who sign up to volunteer at any of the GCRM Mission outlets.
Whether this is volunteering at reNEWed or The Table, the food ministry branch from GCRM, time is an invaluable donation. Volunteers can act as mentors to men and women in the community, they can serve meals, volunteer at reNEWed, help at annual events and serve in a multitude of other ways.
It’s these outlets that allow students as well as residents in the community to get involved. At annual events such as their pancake breakfast over Labor Day weekend or their annual golf tournament, Taylor and IWU students are often a large part of the volunteer base.
The GCRM acts as a connection between the county and the two big universities in the surrounding area.
In 2020 alone, they were able to provide over 74,000 meals and over 20,000 sheltered nights, according to the GCRM website. This output is all because of volunteer work, donations and proceeds from community members.
GCRM is truly renewing lives, both of those in the community as well as those who volunteer.
“When you see the light go on in people's eyes and they realize they are beautiful human beings are created for a plan and when that light bulb goes on, there's just nothing like it,” Barbareia said, “When you get to see these men and women get to go back and they say, ‘I have a relationship with my daughter,’ or, ‘I got my son back. My parents are talking to me again,’ these are relationships that have been broken for decades, and to have the ability to watch people, be reconciled, it just really is the neatest thing that we get to see.”