WELLAND – Erika Church recalls squeezing between shelves packed high with donated items, when Matthew 25 was located in an old building on Welland St.
“We had to inhale as we came through the door and walk sideways,” Church said. “You couldn’t walk two abreast — that’s a certainty.”
Now, there’s room to spare for the volunteers at the faith-based organization that provides free home furnishings for families in need.
Church described the organization’s new home at 42 Division St. as “a gift of space from God’s hand.”
Matthew 25 held an open house Sunday to celebrate the new location, welcoming people inside for a cup of hot lemon tea and friendly conversation.
She said the new location is three-times the size of the old building at 25 Welland St.
Church said there’s ample space in the back of the building to sort through items such as used furniture and household items donated by people throughout the community.
“At the front there a public area where we meet with people and talk with them, pray with them, listen to their needs and struggles,” said Church, who has run the organization for the past 12 years with fellow volunteer Lucille Turmel.
Church attributes the organization’s new home to the grace of God working through people in the community.
She said she was on Division St. paying a bill, when she noticed a “for lease” sign on the front of a former discount mattress shop.
“I took down the number and met with the agent and God did the rest,” she said. “It was beautiful.”
They leased the building with funding from Faith Tabernacle, and a team of about 30 “missionaries” volunteered their time to renovate it.
“So many volunteers came together,” she said. “The bathroom was redone, painting was done, the floor was painted at the back. It was just an army of volunteers.”
Even the “very expensive sign” above the door of the new Matthew 25 location, was donated by a local sign company.
“It is all God,” she said. “It is faith guiding us, knowing that He will provide. Just as we are providing, He is providing for us.”
Church said Matthew 25 has helped more than 2,000 people in the Welland area since it was established. They’ve helped women fleeing abusive homes, people who have just been released from prison, and people trying to get back on their feet after being homeless.
“They feel the love of God here. There’s no judgement, no condemnation,” Church explained. “It’s simply, ‘What do you need? What’s your situation, and how can we help?’”
Many of the people Matthew 25 has assisted are now volunteering there.
“I call them my tattooed saints. They look rough but they have hearts of gold,” Church said. “They travel with me in the truck and they do the heavy lifting. It’s beautiful.”