Dedication held at site of future We Care Thrift Store location
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
We Care Thrift Store, located at the corner of Main Street and Nashville Avenue, has been a part of the downtown business community for the past 34 years. By this time next year, that affiliation will have ended.
Officials of We Care Program, a prison ministry that operates the popular thrift store confirmed last week (Friday, December 8) that they are preparing to build a 20,000 square foot building on 10 acres they purchased at Alabama 21’s junction with Northgate Drive, directly across the highway from Hendrix Tractor Co.
“We are excited about this opportunity to gather here in this way,” We Care Program President Don Metzler told a gathering of about 40 people during a dedication ceremony for the site. “It’s not an official groundbreaking; we’re not quite at that point, but we wanted to have a prayer of dedication for this site and for what God is going to do here in the future.”
He quickly pointed out that the bargain store, which provides funds for chaplains to visit inmates of the two local correctional facilities (G.K. Fountain and William C. Holman) and others, will continue to operate out of its current location until probably summer or fall of 2024.
“We’ll have the blueprints to the city of Atmore hopefully by the end of this month, and hopefully we can get started building early next year, Lord willing,” he said. “We all know how these processes go — we all think it should go quicker than it does — so maybe by the middle or end of next year we’ll get it as far along as we want to get it.”
Metzler explained that the thrift store has simply outgrown its location in the historic building that opened in 1876 as the Carney Mill Company Commissary and housed numerous businesses, including Elmore’s Five and Dime, before the prison ministry opened what was then called The Economy Shop there in 1989.
“At 20,000 square feet, we’ll have about double what we have now,” he said. “We’ll also have lots of space for parking, which has become a big issue where we are.”
The new location will also include a drive-through area for dropping off donations, parking space for the thrift store’s box truck and storage space for supplies used in all three We Care locations. (Flomaton and Monroeville are the other two.)
Local businessman David Landis, a member of the We Care Program board of directors, provided the prayer of dedication.
“We ask that you bless this place, this building, these people — all of you working here — that it will become a light on a hill, right here on Highway 21, as we all continue to do the work God has called us to do,” he prayed. “This is all You, something we can just praise You and give You glory for today. It’s a miracle in the making, and we are humbled to be a part of it.”
We Care officials said in a press release issued at the dedication ceremony that the program has enjoyed being a part of the downtown business community and hopes to see the area continue to flourish.
“We have been blessed to see that area develop,” the release reads. “We look forward to how downtown will continue to expand and grow into an even greater metropolis that will be a beacon in South Alabama for years to come.”
Atmore-area residents were reminded that We Care will still be close by, even when it vacates the downtown area.
“We are not going far, just across the street and north only 11,600 feet,” officials said.
Note: Historical information on the We Care building came from Nancy Bosenberg Karrick’s book, “Memories of Main Street.”