By Ben Lawson
When her son first approached her about running a thrift store to raise money for the homeless, Vickie Johnson admits she was hesitant. But as the planned opening date drew nearer, she felt God opened the door.
The idea’s inception grew out of her son’s previous life as a drug addict. In and out of hospitals, at times in trouble with law enforcement, Tim Macklin was at one point given only a short time to live by doctors. Johnson feels this is where God intervened, saving her son’s life for a purpose. That purpose became helping others in similar situations.
“He has a heart for the homeless because he was homeless,” she said.
In the more than five years since he recovered, Macklin has been preaching and attempting to reach out to the homeless in Knoxville. The mission is two-fold: to help troubled individuals clean up their lives and enlighten them about God.
“The word of God is worth more than any amount of money,” Johnson said.
But money is a necessity in any undertaking, which is where God’s Place Thrift Store comes in.
Johnson runs the store, 90 percent of which is donated items. Her goal is not just to raise money, but to provide those in need with affordable clothing, furniture, kitchen ware and other necessities. All the clothes items cost $1 and every Friday a shopper can take home as many items as they can fit in one bag for only a $1.
Low prices are not all the store has to offer. The sign outside that reads, “Come in for prayer” is not taken lightly. Many people stop in for that purpose alone and if you’re not comfortable praying at the store, a prayer request box stands by the register.
The funds raised at the store go into programs aimed at helping Knoxville’s homeless, which currently include two halfway houses that Johnson calls “whole way” houses since they enforce a policy of going the whole way or no way. She indicated they want to do much more, but it can be difficult considering the stigma against the people they work with.
“People don’t want to deal with the homeless,” she said.
She stressed their need for a dedicated building to hold services and said they’ve made use of everything from parking lots to her son’s backyard. In the meantime, Knoxville Baptist Church is lending them use of their building.
Others have stepped up to help, too. Donna Smith volunteered to collect donated Bibles to hand out and David King with Ye Olde Steak House has donated food. But perhaps the most significant help comes from residents at the “whole way” houses, some of whom now help out at the thrift store.
“We help the poor help the poor,” Johnson said.
If anyone is interested in donating, the store is currently in need of furniture, pots, pans and glass ware. They do not need clothing at this time.
God’s Place Thrift Store is open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They are located at 5925 Chapman Highway in South Knoxville.
Family Endeavors to Reach Homeless
By Ben Lawson