Most Mint Hill residents are familiar with A Servant’s Heart Community Boutique, a resale store located on Lawyer’s Road. What they may not know is that the boutique exists to fund the unique community assistance programs created by Founder and Executive Director Kim Rhodarmer.
“We help people who are financially struggling,” says Rhodarmer. “They’ve had a bump in the road – a crisis – something’s happened and they need to be bridged from this time to a time that they are financially independent again. The boutique exists so we can provide services to the community.”
The spirit of Servant’s Heart and the impact it has on the Mint Hill community can be easily seen through its annual Christmas assistance program. Every Christmas season, Servant’s Heart collects new toys to provide a private shopping experience for families in need. But this past Christmas, when Servant’s Heart was blessed with a surplus of toys, Rhodarmer decided to take the program one step further.
“I’d identified all the families that were saying, ‘Yes, I need help with Christmas,’” says Rhodarmer. “We’d already served everyone on the list, and I’d accommodated everyone on my waiting list, and we still had amazing toys. But I didn’t have confidence that we’d filled every need out there,” she continues. “So the Friday before Christmas I decided I was going to call the Police Department and ask them what are the two most financially devastated areas in the Mint Hill community?”
The information Rhodarmer received from the Police Department didn’t surprise her; in fact, she already had many clients from one the areas they directed her toward. However, Rhodarmer was surprised to see that she didn’t have a single client from the other area the police department mentioned, a mobile home park in Mint Hill.
“I went home and told my husband, ‘Tomorrow we’re having a pop-up Christmas market,’” says Rhodarmer, who wasn’t even certain what the trendy term meant. “We’re just going to show up with all these toys and we’re going to serve this community of seventy-five mobile homes.”
Rhodarmer’s husband rented a 26-foot U-Haul, and Rhodarmer and her family did just that. In that one day, they were able to serve 96 children, many of who waited in line for two to four hours to shop the market. “It was a delightful experience for us. We started that effort at 12:45, and we got the last person taken care of at 6:45 at night,” says Rhodarmer. “That just made our Christmas so extra-special knowing that we had families who otherwise would not have had a Christmas, that we showed up and were able to help them. It was just a fabulous day serving people in the Mint Hill community.”
The holiday season is a popular time to participate in charitable initiatives, but of course need doesn’t end on December 26. Servant’s Heart offers several important year-round assistance programs that serve Mint Hill neighbors in need year-round.
A unique assistance program that Rhodarmer calls the nonprofit’s “flagship” is its “non-food pantry.” “Most people think that someone with a food stamp debit card can go to the grocery store and buy the same things you and I buy with our money, and that’s not true,” says Rhodarmer. “I say it all the time: food stamps are for food. Yet what do you do when you don’t have toilet paper in your house? What do you do when a child goes to school and is being made fun of because they didn’t take a bath last night? Chances are that child did take a bath, but they’re wearing soiled clothes because laundry detergent is expensive.”
To bridge this gap Rhodarmer identified twenty-five items that are necessary for daily and weekly living that are not eligible to be purchased with food stamps. A family of four leaves the non-food pantry with a one-month supply of necessities, a minimum of $172.00 in product. In 2018 alone, Servant’s Heart’s non-food pantry distributed over twenty-five thousand dollars in products.
Servant’s Heart also houses a small “emergency” food pantry full of non-perishable items. When Rhodarmer started Servant’s Heart in 2016, it was important to her not to duplic services already offered in the community. With the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry operating every Thursday at Wilson-Wilgrove Baptist Church less than two miles down the road, Rhodarmer didn’t see the need for a robust food pantry. However, she also didn’t want a client to leave her hungry on Friday knowing they wouldn’t have access to food until the following Thursday. Most individuals coming through the food pantry leave with about $100.00 of groceries. Servant’s Heart also offers the opportunity for clients to shop the boutique’s inventory up to twice a year for necessities, which could be anything from clothes for an interview to an overhead lamp for their home.
In the coming months, Rhodarmer looks forward to being able to begin a bill pay assistance program. Although she has some designated money set aside to begin this effort, which will initially be utilities-specific, Rhodarmer is counting on the continued support of the community to make it happen.
“I feel like there are a lot of people that want to help but families have budgets,” says Rhodarmer. “Most people could give $10.00 a month and not even realize they’ve given away $10.00. It’s not going to affect their quality of life or even what they like to do on a daily basis for most people. Yet those $10.00 collectively would make an enormous difference for our community.”
For Rhodarmer, that’s what it’s all about: making a difference in her local community. From its opening in September of 2016 through the end of 2018, Servant’s Heart’s assistance programs served over 7800 people and gave out more than $271k in tangible product. “So does the Mint Hill community need something like Servant’s Heart?” asks Rhodarmer. “I think that’s a resounding yes.”
Visit A Servant’s Heart on the web to learn more about their assistance programs and how you can help year round: https://servantsheart.org. Watch for more information on how you can help with the bill assistance program in the coming months.