NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. — Along Route 60 in New Kent County, Virginia, you’ll find a thrift store where shoppers can find just about anything.
“We stay busy all of the time. There is no downtime,” Assistant Manager Sherri Pilliey said. ”We’re just looking for good stuff.”
Pilliey said the most important items at Proclaiming Grace Outreach aren’t for sale.
“It is very fulfilling. I’m starting to tear up now. I just love to help people. I’ve always loved to help people,” she said.
At this nonprofit, a helping hand and lots of love are always free of charge.
The group helps people down on their luck in New Kent and upper James City County by providing food and clothing.
“We do a lot of both. Selling and giving,” said founder Melanie King. “If somebody comes and they need things we’re always happy to give them.”
Their extensive thrift store helps fund their ministry.
“We have furniture. Anything from a sectional couch right down to an eraser for your pencil,” said King.
She said simple acts of kindness can transform lives.
"People do different jobs in life. I am blessed to be able to do what I do. I am blessed to be able to give to people,” she said.
Last year alone, Proclaiming Grace Outreach helped feed 2,200 people.
More than 100 volunteers from 20 civic and church groups help propel Melanie’s mission.
“The people here are fabulous. I love their giving spirit and their heart for helping others and I wanted to be a part of it,” said volunteer Leigh Anne Langston.
Proclaiming Grace Outreach goes beyond just filling stomachs and keeping people clothed.
The nonprofit run also provides home and auto repairs for those less fortunate.
Sharon Bedell and Lloyd Harvey needed light renovations at both of their homes. Proclaiming Grace Outreach fixed ceilings and floors and installed ramps.
“Oh, they help me in all kinds of ways. They put a handicap ramp on my house. They did all kinds of things,” said Harvey.
Bedell and Harvey can’t measure how much the upgrades mean to them.
“I love it,” Harvey said. “It changed my life a whole lot because I used to walk on steps.”
“It feels very reassuring to have them as my friends,” said Bedell.
“Sometimes it is hard to ask. But we want them to come to ask for help,” explained King.
Establishing a nonprofit was never on Melanie King’s radar. But 15 years ago, a knock at her door changed the trajectory of her life.
“March 20, 2008, is when we lost Jenna,” she recalled.
Melanie’s only daughter, Jenna Grace, who graduated early from high school and had a giving heart was killed in a car wreck.
“Sometimes people say they can feel her. People that haven’t even met her,” King said.
Her mom vowed to channel her sadness into helping others.
“There are just so many ways to grieve and to heal. This was my way to heal,” King said.
Sherri Pilley takes giving back seriously.
“It's in your heart. This is a heart thing,” said Pilley. ”I’m here because I love to be here.”
Proclaiming Grace Outreach, a nonprofit spreading love and nourishment for the body and soul while remembering a young woman taken too soon.
”I would have loved to have met Jenna,” Pilley said. “To know a young woman could have this much influence. And it is all about her. We’re doing this for her.”
Proclaiming Grace Outreach is currently working on a capital campaign to build a new food pantry.
If you’re interested in shopping at their extensive thrift store on Route 60, they’re open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.