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It's A House Of The Lord

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Cynthia 'Cindy' Alexander stands in front of the Salvation Army Family Store on West Main Street in Forest City. The store features great deals on clothing, furniture and other household items and many forms of help for people in financial crisis."

When Cynthia Alexander goes to work for the Salvation Army, it is, "to serve the Lord every day."

The Chase High School graduate who also took courses at Isothermal, brings a wealth of managerial experience to the job of supervising employees, volunteers, accepting donations and serving the public.

"I like meeting people," the 18-year veteran of environmental services management in local and regional nursing homes said. "When we lost a resident it was like losing family. They are family."

And that strong sense of kinship energizes her work with the Family Store on West Main Street, Forest City.

"I've stood on that loading dock and cried with people who have said things to me like, 'If it wasn't for the Salvation Army, I wouldn't have had shoes to wear as a kid.' Some people have called us when their mama dies and they give us everything in that house. They tell us their mama wanted the Salvation Army to have it all," she said.

The store is open from 10 until 5 on Mondays and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

"People know our door is open even if they just need to talk," Alexander, who lost a son, said. "One woman came in here and cried with me for an hour and a half. She lost a son, too. Young people who need to talk come here, too."

Whether it's a listening ear or a good deal on clothing, furniture, or household items, the Family Store is home to many local folks. The parking lot is often packed out.

"I love John 3:16 and Psalm 23," she said of scriptures that have guided her walk into service work. "I memorized Psalm 23 when I was in the fifth grade."

The passage reads, "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." and "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Clearly the Lord has many houses, but it's not a stretch to say the Family Store on West Main in Forest City is one of them. A bright new brochure from the store says 539 people were served by the food pantry in 2020 and 49 received energy assistance and 11 received housing assistance.

The store's social worker, Norman Murphy, says it is important to know that 82 percent of donations go to direct services to people in need.

Alexander often struggles to deal with all the donated items.

"People ask me why don't you quit taking them. I tell them that people give for a reason; and I don't want them to stop giving," she said.

The store manager's spiritual path has taken her to two local churches. She is a member of New Bethel Baptist, but often attends Goode's Grove Baptist because her children attend there.

"Covid hurt us," she said of the past 16 months of various forms of shut down, but she added, "When we couldn't get to church, we listened to Don Wilson on Channel 7." She had high praise for the Sunday morning broadcasts from First Baptist Church in Spartanburg. "He's wonderful."

She wanted people considering suicide to know, "There is always someone who loves you and that's Jesus Christ. You are never alone."

Her church involvement has also included cooking for Bible School. For lots of years she organized the kitchen and "Had a great time. We loved it. Sometimes we had 140-150 kids. It was a great time. Eventually my job pulled me away, but I did it for several years. Once my husband and I even took the youth to Fort Caswell. That was a lot of fun."

The store is staffed by her and Christy Mann, Barbie White, Judy Taylor, Tracy Adkins, Sophie Bartlette, Jonas Marsh, and James Millard. She said volunteers are critical too. Many volunteers are regular and others come from local high schools where students need volunteer hours. Three of the store's employees are paid for by Blue Ridge Community Action.

An organization called Youthworks is providing volunteers this summer. The other day while visiting, one of their adult leaders played the piano in the Family Store and the young people gathered around to sing. Alexander said it was an inspiring moment.

Youthworks is a national organization that is bringing as many as 20 young people into Rutherford County for six weeks this summer.

Between them, Alexander and her husband, Joe, have eight children, 12 grandchildren and two great grands. Joe is retired from working in the concrete business.

The new brochure for the local Salvation Army says, "We are dedicated to caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, loving the unloved and befriending the friendless."

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