Deeply discounted merchandise ministry a boon to churches and nonprofits

Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center launches ‘Sharing the Goods’ mission

By Brian Frick | Presbyterian News Service

Young Adult Volunteer Sharon Boer helps oversee Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center’s Sharing the Goods ministry partnership. Ferncliff has become a regional distribution center for the national nonprofit Good360, which helps redistribute surplus products from major suppliers to nonprofits. Brian Frick

LITTLE ROCK – I arrived at Ferncliff late at night, eager to hear of the camp and conference center’s new exploits but exhausted from the journey. I settled down to sleep not knowing that the comfortable mattress was my first introduction to Ferncliff’s Sharing the Goods ministry partnership with Good360.

That $1,100 Tempur-Pedic mattress was acquired for just $80 from Good360, a national nonprofit that receives surplus products from major suppliers and redistributes them at a reduced cost.

“We saved thousands in the purchase of those mattresses alone,” said the Rev. David Gill, the coordinator of Sharing the Goods at Ferncliff. “We spread the news to as many Presbyterian camps as we could.”

In 2005, with help from a Presbyterian Women’s birthday offering grant and additional funds from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Ferncliff built a warehouse to help support disaster response. While the warehouse receives and ships about 50,000 pounds of Church World Service disaster kits annually, it has grown to be a hub for other ministries as well.

So, when Ferncliff officials heard that Good360 was developing Community Redistribution Partners across the country to share products with more nonprofits and churches, Gill offered to use space in the warehouse as a regional distribution center for camps, churches and nonprofits in their area.

Ferncliff recently held a grand opening party for Sharing the Goods, and since there is a farm next to the warehouse, administrators decided to name the event “Floats and Goats.”

“We thought it would be fun to be walking around the space with goats while drinking root beer floats,” Gill said. “We pride ourselves on being a place where faith and fun flourish together.”

Those who came to the grand opening went home with a trailer load of products.

Carrie Curtis of the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas in Conway had a case of light bulbs in her trailer.

“We have all fluorescent lights and they flicker,” she said. “For pennies on the dollar, we can now afford to change that for our residents.”

Jeff Moore of Presbyterian Village had lots of bed pillows in his load for short-term rehabilitation patients.

“To help make them comfortable, we give them a new pillow while they’re with us that they can take home,” Moore said. “At Walmart, it cost us about $10. Here, we get them for one to two dollars.”

Ferncliff currently has 40 registered nonprofit partners, and administrators hope to have 50 by early next year. According to Gill, the partnership with Good360 is helping the center reach out to the community in new ways. A home school training group has booked five conferences at Ferncliff after receiving products from the warehouse.

The endeavor also fits Ferncliff’s mission of being “green.” Some of Good360 products, like 2,400 mislabeled pillows, might otherwise end up in landfills.

The pillows “couldn’t be sold retail, so we were able to pass usable items on at a great discount,” Gill said. “They’ll be used for good instead of thrown out.”

Organizations such as shelters for abused women and ministries to the homeless also came to the grand opening, picking up items like storage units because they can’t afford the retail cost.

One story especially touched Young Adult Volunteer Sharon Boer, who helps oversee the program. A parent bereavement group built a retreat center but hasn’t been able to complete it the way they’d like, because of the cost.

But at Ferncliff they were able to get items like bathroom fixtures, tools and carpet to help them finish the project.

“It moved me to tears to hear how they are helping families heal after the loss of a child,” Boer said. “I’m so excited to be spreading good by Sharing the Goods.  That’s what being a Christian should be all about.”

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