Shoppers and festival-goers in Downtown Bristol may have walked by the Sharing Christ Ministries and Worship Center on the corner of Sixth and State Street without paying much attention to the non-descript storefront with windows all around. Besides a few signs or sometimes a low-budget display of some sort, it is not an attention-getting location. Few people may realize exactly what kind of impact is being made on the lives of the less-fortunate and often less-noticed people of Bristol behind these walls.
For 22 years now, Sharing Christ Ministries and Worship Center has been feeding the hungry a hot meal every Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. without fanfare. The doors also open at 10 a.m. on Sunday with a Christ-based worship service and a nice breakfast for those who attend. Barbara Knoll has been there since the beginning, quietly working behind the scenes, meeting the physical and spiritual needs of those in Downtown Bristol.
Not part of any organization and without any government funding, the ministry describes themselves on the Sharing Christ Ministries Facebook page as a church. However, Knoll effectively organizes other local churches and organizations to provide nice meals for the less fortunate each week. As many as 160 or as few as 50 people benefit each time hot meals are served through this ministry.
The center provides plates, cutlery, and drinks, and the organizations do the rest. Sometimes, food is prepared on-site, and sometimes it is prepared elsewhere and brought in. To her credit, Knoll already has meal commitments in for the rest of 2013. You can contact Barbara Knoll at 423-306-2913 about helping Sharing Christ Worship Center with meals or financial donations.
There is another ministry within the ministry on the corner of State Street and 6th Street. For the past five years, Dana Cornett has served as a sort of make-shift shopping mall for those with limited funds. Her little store opens on Saturday night when the meals are served at 5:30 p.m. and closes at 7 p.m. What makes this shopping experience unique is that there is no charge for anything.
By collecting donations of various clothing, household items, and toys, she manages to meet many needs for those on the street, those transitioning off of the street to rental housing, or just people who have need of items they cannot afford.
Although there is no charge for anything, Cornett insists that each person’s chosen item or items must be bagged before they leave. (One item that they never have enough of is plastic grocery bags.) This is because she feels a deep personal burden to look each person in the eyes and connect with them, affirming their value and worth as a person. This is what motivates her mission.
Five years ago, Dana Cornett was looking for a real, tangible way to minister to people and share God’s love with them. One day she was delivering mail in Downtown Bristol, and, as she was passing by this corner at Sixth and State, she felt God calling her to help. And, that’s exactly what she did.
You might meet up with her at a yard sale where she is telling the homeowners about the ministry and reminding them that she would love for them to donate any leftovers from their sale to the cause. Here is a list of the type of things that are always in demand:
- Clothes of all sizes for men, women, and children: shirts, pants, shorts, coats, slips, bras, socks, underwear
- Any household items
Dana describes a current need:
“I am presently in need of a couple of dressers and a child’s bed for a family that has just moved into an apartment.”
Besides just the normal needs that her “customers” might have, she also provides a little “retail therapy.” Every time a woman comes in, she is encouraged to pick out a piece of costume jewelry for herself, free of charge like everything else. This is surely a wonderful way to increase self-esteem in women who may rarely get to enjoy such luxuries! Of course, there is always a need for costume jewelry donations.
Dana Cornett has not forgotten the children who come through the doors of the Sharing Christ Worship Center. Every child is allowed to choose from a selection of small toys to take home each time, so you could also assume that little toys, even the ones that come with a kid’s hamburger meal, would be a constant need.
Would you like to help? Donations of the above-mentioned items are gladly accepted and tax receipts are available. You can call Dana Cornett at 423-277-9626. She will help figure out the most convenient place for you to drop the donations. She will even pick up donations, if necessary.
As the holiday season approaches, as with most organizations, Sharing Christ Ministries and Worship Center tries to provide some extra holiday joy to those to whom they minister. You can help with providing nice used or new gift items to those who will be attending the Christmas dinner this year.
This is a grass-root, people-to-people ministry going on right here under our noses in Downtown Bristol, meeting the needs of those who live in the area around State Street and beyond. People like Barbara Knoll and Dana Cornett represent the best of our community. Let's try to give them a hand when we can.
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