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Bargain buys at Brookhaven thrift store help feed the hungry in southwest Mississippi

Photo by Donna Campbell/Sandra Rials, assistant manager at the St. Andrew’s Thrift Store in Brookhaven, hangs a few ornaments on one of the display Christmas trees. Funds from sales of items at the thrift store helps fund the ministry of St. Andrew’s Mission. The store is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Photo by Donna Campbell/Sandra Rials, assistant manager at the St. Andrew’s Thrift Store in Brookhaven, hangs a few ornaments on one of the display Christmas trees. Funds from sales of items at the thrift store helps fund the ministry of St. Andrew’s Mission. The store is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

What started as a mission from St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in McComb has grown into a ministry that serves the needs of thousands in southwest Mississippi.

St. Andrew’s Mission was started in 1995 by the church’s pastor at the time and incorporated two years later as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit mission organization based in McComb. The goal was to help the residents of White Acres, a low-income housing community across the street from the church. The mission received a grant to start providing daycare services and a food pantry ministry for the residents of White Acres.

Since then, St. Andrew’s Mission has grown to 13 active ministries which provide meals to the hungry, medical care to the sick, shelter to the homeless and assistance and counseling to those in need.

The administrative headquarters for the St. Andrew’s Mission is in McComb, as is the activity center (201 Main St.), S.A.M.’s Diner and Food Pantry (615 Bendat St.), and the St. Andrew’s Medical Clinic (815 Pennsylvania Ave.). However, they’re open to Lincoln County residents as well, said St. Andrew’s Executive Director Ed Codding.

Coding joined St. Andrew’s 13 years ago. “I’ve seen it grow from one ministry to 13 since I’ve been on board,” he said.

While the majority of work is done in McComb, Codding sees residents from Brookhaven and Lincoln County use their resources on a regular basis. The medical clinic is available to anyone without insurance and attracts patients from all over southwest Mississippi and even southeast Louisiana. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 601-250-6830. “All of our doctors volunteer their time, so clinic hours will vary,” he said.

St. Andrew’s offers counseling services to those in need as well.

Every Monday and Friday, St. Andrew’s soup kitchen, S.A.M.’s Diner, serves a hot meal to anyone who needs it. Lunch is served in two shifts at 11:30 and 12:15. “If you or anyone you know needs a hot meal, we’re here to serve,” he said.

The mission also operates a business incubator in the former McComb Mill Manufacturing Co. building at 529 S. Broadway St. The 150,000-square foot structure was a gift to St. Andrew’s Mission in 2012 after the textile mill ceased operation a year earlier. For a flat, nominal monthly fee, the business mill will provide office space, utilities and phone service, internet, business consultation and counseling, basic accounting services and financial planning, website and social media services and a full copy and printing business center.

While the mission relies heavily on grants and donations, it’s also funded in part through sales at its four thrift stores. St. Andrew’s Missions operates a thrift store at 118 East Monticello St. in Brookhaven as well as three others in McComb, Hattiesburg and Vidalia, Louisiana. Store hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

The Brookhaven store is packed with treasures and bargains — furniture, appliances, clothes, jewelry, household items and books make up the bulk of sales. “St. Andrew’s Mission thrift stores help generate funds to support our various ministries,” he said. “We welcome donations of clothes, household items, furniture, computers, toys, etc.  We even accept donations of used cars, trucks, vans, and boats,” he said.

Most tax-deductible donations can be accepted at the Brookhaven store, but for larger donations like vehicles, call 601-684-4678.

The merchandise in the Brookhaven store changes frequently, and it’s usually busy with shoppers hunting for bargains. “We get tremendous support from the community,” he said.

Volunteers are always welcome. “We have volunteers helping in the diner, delivering meals and food boxes and much more,” he said. To volunteer, stop into the Brookhaven store or call 601-684-4678.