CROSS Ministries in Osceola started out 17 years ago just collecting medical supplies and equipment from hospitals and donating them over seas. In 2005, it became a 501c3, an official nonprofit with CROSS Ministries. By 2008, the thrift store came along after the board of directors decided it needed a way to fund a ministry of its own.
CROSS stands for Christian Relief Of Supplies and Services.
Where CROSS Ministries sits today was an old lumberyard.
“It was just empty,” said Mike Sitzman, CROSS Ministries director.
The store began with four board members and numerous volunteers. Community members began to donate before the store was even open so it had enough merchandise for opening day, June 1, 2008.
“God just really provided,” said Sitzman.
The store has undergone many remodels in the last 10 years and now has five full-time and three part-time staff members, and the rest of the work is done completely by volunteers.
“The most amazing thing that happens through here, and it happens consistently, are the relationships we develop,” said Sitzman. “We provide a place for people who want to volunteer.
“When we first started, it was all about trying to make money for our international missions. I realized we need to be here for everyone, whether that’s overseas or the people next door, so it became, ‘How can we help?’”
The past 10 years have seen more than remodeling happen in the store, as there has been major expansion of the business model itself.
“We’ve evolved so much, from just collecting the medical equipment to the thrift store and we partner with over 60-some agencies throughout southern Iowa. Being a thrift store, we end up with a lot of stuff so we’ve ended up being a recycling center too,” said Sitzman.
In the last year, CROSS Ministries in Osceola has put together two mission trips to Kenya and a trip to Puerto Rico. For people considering mission work, CROSS Ministries can help set up a trip or connect people here with other organizations.
Recently, CROSS Ministries has partnered with an organization that had been building specialized wheelchairs. When the organization was going to drop the work, CROSS picked it up.
“It’s too important,” said Sitzman.
Now CROSS Ministries is working on manufacturing the wheelchairs in Fort Dodge, in Kenya and in Guatemala, where they will be needed to reduce shipping costs.
In 2017, CROSS Ministries recycled 910,560 pounds of shoes, belts, purses, books, scrap metal, textiles, cardboard, toys and bric/brac along with 201,000 pounds of medical supplies and equipment. It also recycled 12,216 cans and 373 electronic items. CROSS Ministries donated fabric, sheets blankets, T-shirts and mattress pads to various sources, for making chemo hats, rugs, pillowcase dresses, T-shirt shorts and dolls, which are distributed through other ministries or directly to children and hospitals during mission trips to other countries.
CROSS Ministries sponsored two mission trips in 2017, to Alaska and Guatemala. It assists 10 international projects in seven countries with supplies and equipment, mission teams, training and coordinating work efforts. It assisted 58 households (159 individuals), 17 organizations, eight schools, three home schools, four churches, five benefits, three gift certificates and donated 1,925 books to teachers in 2017.
“The most important thing is who walks through that door and what they need. Not so much what they’re going to buy, but what they really need,” said Sitzman. “The biggest benefit [of being with CROSS Ministries] is discovering your faith.”
In celebration of 10 years, CROSS Ministries thrift store is hosting lunch with meat donated by the Iowa Pork Producers, beverages donated by Atlantic Bottling Company and chips for $2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 1. All proceeds from the lunch go toward CROSS Ministries missions.
Both June 1 and 2 everything in the store $20 or less will be 50 percent off. There will be 10 $25 gift cards to the store given away and drawings to win new set aside items from the store.
“We feel that this belongs to the community, it’s here to help the community, it’s here to support the community. This isn’t done by one person or even a group. It’s the entire community. It’s their donating, it’s their selling, when they help with money, whatever they do, they’re a part of this and that means that we, as a community, have an impact all over the world,” said Sitzman.