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New thrift store racks up customers
Site formerly housed Potter's House
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Atlanta Union Mission President and CEO Jim Reese, right, holds the chain tight for Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras, center, with help from Donna Ellis to cut the grand opening chain that represents the "chains of addiction" Thursday morning during grand opening ceremonies and dedication. Atlanta Union Mission board members Jim Inglis, left with glasses, and Pitts Carr also help hold the chain tight.


Randall Phillips of Fayette County talks about how the Atlanta Union Mission and his faith that emerged from the group’s work helped rescue him from his drug addiction.

Amid bright yellow balloons and a remote radio-station broadcast, the Atlanta Union Mission celebrated the grand re-opening of its Gainesville thrift store Thursday morning.

The Potter’s House at 328 Oak St. is now known as Thrift Store & More, and the name change isn’t all that’s new.

The Christian organization also invested some $300,000 in rebuilding the store, which had fallen into disrepair and had, by the mission’s own assessment, become a downtown eyesore.

The store has a new interior and exterior, as well as a shiny new asphalt parking lot and fresh landscaping.

"I had not been in (the store) before, but I’ve been in a number of thrift stores through the years and I am real impressed as to how you have this set up and I know that you all are real proud of it," said the Rev. Calvin Haney, pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church at nearby 404 Washington St.

Haney also led a prayer in the store’s dedication.

James H. Reese, the mission’s president and chief executive officer, led the ceremony, talking about the mission’s roots to its work today, including transitional housing and six thrift stores throughout Georgia, including ones in Cumming and Commerce.

The group’s thrift ministry director, Donna D. Ellis, said the organization’s aim is to use the Gainesville store as the model for its other stores.

She said the stores’ customers range from budget-conscious families to bargain hunters.

"Whether you’re shopping or donating or you’re stretching your budget, you’re really here helping us and it’s just phenomenal the way God’s faithfulness makes all that happen," Ellis said.

One of the ceremony’s speakers, Randall Phillips of Fayette County, gave a gripping account of his struggles with drugs and the law. He also talked about how the mission and his new faith in Christ have restored him.

"I started learning about (God) through his word and the counselors," Phillips said of his experience with the mission. "... The program is designed only to push you into a relationship with God."

He closed by saying he has been "clean and sober" for 26 months.

"After a testimony like that, can we not see, observe, recognize the wonder of our master and the hands that he gives us here on this earth to make everything that he’s planned happen for all those around us?" said Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras.

She read a proclamation honoring the mission and its work to rebuild the thrift store.

"This thrift store is in the city of Gainesville so that we can help the lives of others, because in Gainesville ... that’s what we’re all about," she said. "It’s called helping someone out whenever you can."

The ceremony ended with the cutting of a chain draped between two poles.

The act was intended to symbolize "breaking the chains of addiction and homelessness" that has gripped many of the people served by the organization, officials said.

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