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Small Business Feature: Standing Stone Community Center

Updated: May 23

I never want to sit down at a computer and have no idea what to type. So normally, before I write these blogs, I mentally try to get a good starting point or focus. This is not the case today. I'm still trying to form words on the work the extremely humble Dawn Thomson and her team are doing for our community. There is no powerful statement I have up my sleeve to get and keep your attention...just a powerful feeling that people need to know what Standing Stone has to offer. I'm literally letting God guide my fingers across these keys at this point because from the moment I stepped in Standing Stone, I've been speechless about it. If you know me, that is extremely rare. I always have something to say! This is different. But that is probably because Standing Stone is different.

To understand why this place is so special, we have to know a bit about how it came to be. More than twelve years ago, Dawn Thomson watched a movie called "The Touch". This 2005 film is centered around a woman fresh out of prison and turning to a church outreach program for help. I won't spoil it for you, but it is so much more than that. It's a true testament to how we are all God's children. No matter where we have been or what we have gone through, we are here to love one another as Jesus loved us. The power of helping and learning from one another cannot be overstated. And after watching this movie, Dawn felt that in her soul. She knew what God was calling her to do-help others. So when there was a reduction in force at her previous job, Dawn founded the not-for-profit organization we know today as Standing Stone Community Center.

At first, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around what Standing Stone actually does. When I walked in, it looked a lot like a Catholic Charities or a Salvation Army. There are two rooms of items for sale. The first room I walked into was mostly clothing with some jewelry, purses, books, CDs, and other random things. The second room is full of furniture, dishes, sheets, children's toys, electronics, name-brand clothing, shoes, and other things I'm surely forgetting. These items were all donated. So yes, like a thrift store. The money from purchases goes to fund the other programs Standing Stone offers. As we dive into all of these programs, try not to get overthink it like I did.

Since we're already talking about clothes, let's talk about the "Five Free Items of Clothing Program". Community members in need can go into Standing Stone once a month and get five free items of clothing. Of course, I had to ask "Why five items?". Dawn told me it was because people truly in need always take as little as possible. She wanted to be sure each person had enough to get by. I asked a lot of questions, but I didn't have to. It really is as simple as it sounds. Approximately 9,000 individuals are served with this program annually.

This next program instantly caught my attention. The Carpenters Table Pantry is more than a traditional food pantry. Normally, someone would leave a food pantry with a pre-packed box of food. The Carpenters Table Pantry, located inside the Standing Stone Community Center, looks like a mini grocery store. Each item in the pantry is worth a certain number of points and each person coming in is allotted a certain number of points per month. In this pantry, I saw everything from fresh fruit to Cap'n Crunch snacks. This is great from the perspective that people get what they want to eat and that means less waste. And it's not just food...there are toiletries available as well. The other part of this program that really impressed me was that only one person can go in at a time. No one feels uncomfortable or rushed. In April of this year, Carpenters Table served over 450 households!

The Gym Shoe Voucher Distribution was originally a program First Baptist Church used to organize, but in 2021, they passed the torch and Standing Stone is glad to keep it going. Once a year, Charleston School District and Charleston Home School parents can bring their children in for a voucher for new shoes. From there, the parents take their children to pick out the shoes at Charleston Walmart. As are all of the programs at Standing Stone, this is also made possible by donations from churches, businesses, and individuals. As any parent knows, shoes are not cheap and kids outgrow them so quickly. Last year, this program served 200 K-12 CUSD # 1 students.

Last, but not least, I want to talk about Hannah's Hope Foster Closets Ministry. When I went into take photos of Standing Stone, this was still an up and coming project. In just a few short weeks, it looks as though this project is taking off! This particular program is aimed at getting children in foster care items they may need during their stay. When the foster parent first brings the child and requested paperwork in, the child gets ten items of clothing. The child also receives a "Blessings Bag" which includes (depending on the child's age) items such as diapers, wipes, socks, toiletries, a blanket, and a stuffed animal. Every month after, the child receives five additional items of clothing. There is also the bi-weekly opportunity to receive diapers, pullups, and/or wipes if there is enough supply.

To say I was blown away by how much work Dawn and her team do would be an understatement. Dawn, the other three employees (Penny, Travis, and Heather all pictured above), and several volunteers run this non-for-profit with efficiency and compassion. When I was in to visit and learn more about Standing Stone, I noticed how smooth of a system they seem to have developed. You would think all of these programs under one roof would be chaotic. Maybe to the team it feels that way, but you'd never know it watching them work. They ask each other for help and without hesitation everyone pitches in.

The other thing I really took notice of while I was there...the way this team treats people walking in the door. They don't care if you're shopping, asking for assistance, or just saying hello-every single person is treated with genuine kindness and open arms. They mean it when they say they are a Christ-centered outreach and you can feel the amount of love they have for their fellow community members. It's a thing of true inspiration. "I love seeing the smiles and helping people as it gives them hope" Dawn said.

Dawn told me while I was there, "We're trying to alleviate the problem of being Charleston's best kept secret". Hopefully in reading and sharing this blog, we can make that happen!

If you've read this far and are wondering how you can help, there are multiple ways!

  • Diapers and toiletries donations are accepted during open hours at the Standing Stone's main location at 375 14th Street in Charleston. They kindly ask that no donations get left in the off hours because they are not protected from the elements and often get damaged.

  • Clothing donations are accepted at the Standing Stone Donation Center at 201 N. 6th Street on most Saturdays. Please check their Facebook page for exact dates.

  • Direct monetary donations can be made to Standing Stone Community Center. If you wish for these donations to go directly to Hannah's Hope Closet or or Carpenters Table, please note HHFC or Carpenters Table in the memo line.

  • Talk to Dawn about volunteer opportunities!

  • Send your prayers to everyone coming to and working with Standing Stone.

  • Share this blog post or information about Standing Stone with your friends, family, and neighbors.

Wow. That was a lot of information! Thank you all so much for reading this and for supporting Standing Stone! For updates, please be sure to follow Standing Stone on Facebook and check out their website. A few more photos and those links are below!

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