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Community Service Center Experiences Increase in Patrons and Donations, Seeks Storage Expansion

Janie Warner Fort Madison ACS director

Fort Madison Community Service Center director Janie Warner bags a patron's items in a corner full of donations. Photo provided by the Iowa-Missouri Conference

The Adventist Community Service Center of Fort Madison, Iowa, seeks to expand its storage after experiencing an increase in both patrons and item donations.

The center, which was closed for some time due to COVID-19, reopened in July 2020. According to the center’s director Janie Warner, the center was so full of donations that it was difficult to walk around inside, which led personnel to set up tables outside for those in need.

While the center has reopened their building to the public, it is struggling to store all the received donations, according to the center’s assistant director Rich Barlow.

“We’re bursting at the seams with the donations we have,” Barlow said.

To accommodate the lack of storage, donations are currently being stored in the center’s office, a shed located next to the center, a volunteer’s garage and inside the center itself.

Part of the increase in donations happened after the local Salvation Army closed. Warner said the center is blessed to receive so many donations, especially after experiencing a patron increase of 30-40 percent in the last 10 months.

With the closing of the local Salvation Army, many volunteers believe the center is more important than ever.

“The center is very essential,” said Karole Smith, a volunteer. “I think we’re seeing a lot more people depend [on the center since the Salvation Army closed].”

Item donations have continued to increase, an estimated 20 percent, after the center was featured in a local newspaper, resulting in higher community awareness, according to Warner.

To accommodate the increase in both donations and patrons, center personnel looked at new storage options. After some research, center personnel decided to raise funds for an additional storage unit. The storage unit, which will measure 12 feet by 28 feet and include a loft, will cost around $8,000, according to Warner.

“The storage unit we are looking at purchasing will give us a maximum amount of space for the money,” Barlow said.

Rich Barlow Photo provided by the Iowa-Missouri Conference

Rich Barlow, the center’s assistant director, looks in the center’s office, now a storage space, for a specific item. Photo provided by the Iowa-Missouri Conference

The center does not charge patrons for items and relies solely on donations and the support of the Fort Madison Church to operate. The decision not to charge patrons ties directly into the center’s philosophy to “help everybody.”

“Jesus basically never turned anyone away,” Warner said. “That’s what we feel we should be doing.”

“The new storage unit will help us know exactly what we have and where we have it,” Barlow said. “It will make it easier for us to get items to the people that need it.”

Center volunteer and pastor for the Fort Madison Church, Wayland Lively, said the center hopes in addition to providing those in need with clothing and other items, the center will also fill the community’s spiritual needs.

“We want to make a connection to the community so that we can make a connection to the community’s spiritual health,” Lively said.

The center also offers all patrons free Adventist literature and frequently invites patrons to church and Bible studies.

“Sometimes I feel down because we haven’t got anybody to church or a Bible study,” Warner said. “But then I keep reminding myself, we’re planting seeds — we’re planting seeds.”

 — This article originally appeared on Oct. 21, 2021, on the Iowa-Missouri Conference website. The center is raising money for the new storage unit through its GoFundMe campaign, “Storage building – Fort Madison SDA Comm Center.”