Through a combination of the ambitious ideas of the Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren congregation and the generosity of the Houff family of Houff Feed and Fertilization, the Karis Gifts of Grace Project opened its doors in early November 2011.
The culmination of a conversation between church-goers and the pastor, Karis — Greek for “grace” — opened within a year of the discussion.
“It was a fast moving affair,” according to Pastor Matthew Fike.
“We started looking at each other thinking ‘We’ve never done this before and we don’t know what we’re doing,’ but we all agreed that we have all stepped out in faith to help others, trusting God’s grace to guide us.”
Gifts And Goodies
Though originally conceived as a place for coffee and dessert, the shop has transformed into more than simply pastries.
Now, the shop serves lighter homemade fare such as quiches and a variety of teas. “It’s a simple menu that gives people a chance to share hospitality,” explains Ann Shultz, assistant manager of Karis.
Beyond the table, Karis doubles as a consignment shop and venue hosting work by more than 60 local artists.
“Most of the revenue is coming from used consignments … an easy way for the public to contribute,” says Shultz. “We give the donator 65 percent of the value, where most consignment shops only give 50 percent.”
The mix of purposes gives Karis an eclectic feel, making it a popular hangout spot for groups spanning retired school teachers to bridge clubs, according to Shultz.
With the funds generated from Karis, the church was able to install a solar driven pump for a community in Haiti.
“We started small with the pump, but are hoping to grow.
“We aim to establish the Church of the Brethren as a church in Haiti. We want to partner with the church to help them build an orphanage, maintain schools and create other self-sustaining projects,” says Fike.
“We don’t want to just give them fish, we are teaching them how to fish,” he added.
This year, 10 members of the church — ranging from high school students to senior citizens in age — will travel to St. Luis Du Nord in hopes of building a relationship.
Helping At Home
Even with the international focus, Karis doesn’t lose sight of local needs. Five local church that fall under the Karis umbrella collect food and backpacks to benefit students at Clymore Elementary School.
These donations have touched the lives of at least 115 children thus far.
The organization also hosts cooking classes and offers ESL literacy classes.
Karis resides, rent-free, in the vacant office area of the Houff Feed and Fertilization Warehouse — the Houffs are members of the church — which “locals will know … as ‘the front of the old AMP building,’ ” says Don Garber, Karis manager.
Karis also is also able to operate utility-free by the generosity of IDM Trucking and Railside Enterprises, which “allow[s] for all proceeds to go directly to charity,” according to Fike.
For more information, call The Karis Project at (540) 248-4511, visit thekarisproject.com or find the organization on Facebook.
Contact Aimee George at (540) 574-6292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.