CHARLESTON — The non-profit ministry Standing Stone Community Center opened its doors to those in need June 13 and its founder plans to keep giving back to the community.
The purpose for the new community center is to provide affordable clothing, toys, books, furniture and other household items to those in need by way of the "New to You" store.
Dawn Thomson, the executive director of the Standing Stone Community Center and a Coles County native, said she doesn't want the center to be known as a thrift store; instead, she wants it to be looked at solely as a ministry.
"This is a ministry; it's not about making money. We want to help people physically and spiritually; that's our goal," Thomson said.
The center, located at 201 North 6th St., in Charleston, also doubles as a place where community members who can't afford a hot meal can eat for free. Although this portion of the center won't be up and running until July 28, Thomson said she feels hopeful that everything will come together.
The plan is for the meals to be served every Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to complement the Charleston Soup Stop, which has weekday hours. Thomson said she wants to eventually extend the hot meals to Sundays as well.
Thomson said she is currently in talks with Eastern Illinois University to have students from different departments provide the food and services for the meals as part of a community service type effort.
The idea to build the Standing Stone Community Center came about back in February 2011 when Thomson said she watched the 2005 movie called "The Touch," about a church in Leesburgh, Fla., and how the church made it a mission to help people in need. Thomson said she knew after watching that movie that it was her calling to build the Standing Stone Community Center.
"I truly believe that was my calling from God," Thomson said.
Filling a void that Charleston and Coles County had was something Thomson said she needed to do.
"I can't stress the amount of need in the community for a place like this. Some choose to ignore it and others choose to help and I'm one of those who chose to help," Thomson said. "I'm one of those people that if I say I'm going to do something, I will do it."
In order to fund the center, Thomson said she took money out of her savings account and took out loans. The funding has strictly come out of Thomson's pocket and she said the Standing Stone Community Center is not affiliated with a specific church or denomination.
All the money received from the "New to You" store and community donations go toward keeping the center running, Thomson said.
The Standing Stone Community Center is open Wednesday-Saturday and will take donations for the "New to You" store on only Wednesdays and Saturdays. Thomson said donations are done this way in order to keep it manageable since she is the only employee who works at the center.
Volunteers and donations are welcome and Thomson said she hopes to continue her efforts in helping the community for as long as possible.
"We hope to be a light in the community and to be here for a long, long time," Thomson said.