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A charter school in North Lawndale, Chicago, serves 300 underprivileged students from fifth to eighth grade, many of whom are unable to provide their own school supplies. So the school turns to a unique ministry. The Storehouse, run by World Vision, is a big-box retailer for those who can't afford big-box prices.

"One of the first gifts we received [from the Storehouse] was 40 backpacks with school supplies, pencils, pens, and loose-leaf paper," says Jim O'Connor, principal of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Ascend Charter School. "Backpacks went to kids who had been doing a good job with their behavior. Since then, we've received everything from yarn to whiteboards."

The charter school also runs a store where students may buy Storehouse-donated products with "KIPP dollars," which are earned for good behavior and academic effort. "The Storehouse," says O'Connor, "has provided our students and teachers with classroom supplies that are essential for student learning."

In the early '90s, Perry Bigelow, a major Chicago-area homebuilder, and a handful of other businessmen wanted to provide building supplies to local churches and ministries. "They realized that pastors were responsible for the social development in the city," says Michael Mantel, senior director of World Vision Chicago. "If you help a church rehabilitate its facility, then you can help the church rehabilitate its community." Inspired by a ministry that builds homes for pastors, the group of homebuilders determined to "build something that will keep building."

In 1995, the Storehouse opened as a home-improvement outlet for churches, ministries, and needy individuals. But putting up walls turned out to be easier than starting a ministry. "We made two mistakes," says ...

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Christianity Today
The Benevolent Big Box
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August 2007

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