It's hard to describe Cross Ministries in a nutshell. It's more than just a service ministry helping people in need.
"It's the community that makes it work," said Mike Sitzman, director of Cross Ministries, which is located in Osceola. "It's the people who volunteer. It's the people who donate items. It's the people who come here and shop."
Cross Ministries started 12 years ago by collecting medical supplies and equipment from hospitals and nursing homes from across the state of Iowa. It has grown to include the states of Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.
The items are donated to organizations that ship them to developing countries all over the world.
Currently, Cross Ministries has projects in many countries, including Haiti, Honduras, Nigeria, Ukraine and Cameroon.
Five years ago in June, the Cross Ministries Thrift Store in Osceola opened.
When opening the thrift store, the concept was to be able to use the store's funds for the international ministries.
Everything at the thrift store is donated and marked for sale. However, the thrift store also helps families in need. An example of this is families that lost everything and didn't have insurance when a tornado hit Creston in April 2012.
"We don't see it as a hand out, we see it as a hand up," Sitzman said. "They've got enough to deal with in their situation, here's one thing, if we can relieve a little stress from their life, that's what it's about."
Cross Ministries also has a partnership with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as a recycling center since the DNR typically views most thrift stores as recycling centers.
Cross Ministries recycles metals and steel. They have a bailer for clothing, as well as card board.
There have been milestones since Cross Ministries opened its thrift store five years ago.
Sitzman said the entire Cross Ministries "operation" started because Ed and Darlene Lundquist of Osceola allowed them to use their property for free. Cross Ministries is located north of Osceola on Highway 69.
"Things went well enough that we actually purchased the whole place," Sitzman said. "Thanks to Clarke County Development Corporation, they gave us a grant, and then Ed and Darlene, they let us make payments on it."
Sitzman said another accomplishment is their mortgage will be paid off two years in advance this summer.
According to Sitzman, Cross Ministries members thought about setting up a ministry in Corydon. However, another organization had set up a store, but it was struggling.
"So, we helped them, so they can be successful, and they can help themselves," he said. "It makes more sense than us going in and doing it. It's their people and their community helping themselves."
Cross Ministries is currently helping and supporting ministries in Leon, Corydon, Ottumwa, Greenfield, Oskaloosa and many other communities across Iowa.
Next five years
With the fifth anniversary of the thrift store, there are plans in the works for the next five years.
One plan is to build a new processing building. The current one, where everything is donated and volunteers spend time sorting, organizing and cleaning, isn't heated or have ventilation.
"Winters get pretty tough out there," Sitzman said.
Another goal is to take down some of the other old buildings on the property and put up new ones to make the area visually appealing.
Sitzman said people sometimes ask him why he's not more competitive with Cross Ministries or trying to advance more business across the state.
This is typically his answer.
"But, we work for the same guy," Sitzman said. "If we're here serving God, we've all got the same boss."