Repurposing Discarded Materials – and Lives

By Stan Friedman

SUMMERFIELD, NC (January 11, 2012) – A ministry cofounded by the pastor and a layperson from Mount Bethel Covenant Church repurposes furniture so that lives might be renewed.

Pastor Kevin Cochran and Marty Roberts started LOT 2540 after learning a little over a year ago that there were no permanent shelters for the roughly 300 homeless people in their county. The two men and the other cofounder, Dave Burnette, who is the spiritual director at a local Methodist congregation, traveled to Charlotte and met with the leadership of Area 15, a homeless ministry there.

The three men were inspired by the ministry, which owns a 23,000-square-foot facility to repurpose and salvage building materials and furniture, says Roberts. For example, windows from a warehouse became displays for artwork. Revenue from the sale of the items helps fund the shelter.

The trio brought the idea home with them and started LOT 2540. The name references the “Least of These” and Matthew 25:40, which reads, “Then the king will reply to them, I assure you that when you have done it for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Common English Bible).

LOT 2540 uses material destined for local landfills. The items are cleaned and repurposed and then sold in the ministry’s retail store. So far, more than 60,000 pounds of material has been salvaged, says Roberts, who is LOT 2540’s president.

Initially, most of the material came from 100 homes and commercial properties the University of North Carolina purchased and tore down to make room for construction of new student housing.

The retail store has been successful so far, says Roberts. “People with rental properties are some of our top customers.”

On Christmas Eve, the ministry launched its food pantry, a free store, and prayer center. That proved to be a providential evening, Roberts says. “I was introduced to a retired gentleman who has been struggling to make ends meet on Social Security. He happened to also be a craftsman and carpenter who loves to build items out of recycled wood.”

The man now has his own workstation in the corner of the store. “We are displaying and selling his items and sharing his story,” says Roberts. “All we did was show up, and God did the rest.”

Roberts laughs as he recalls some of the items they have kept from being taken to a landfill. There was the time they were given 25 toilets. “I learned a lot about using pressure washers,” he says.

The store and pantry are part of the first phase of the ministry, says Roberts. The end of the first phase will be complete when LOT 2540 launches a Celebrate Recovery ministry in the next several months.

The second of three phases will include providing formalized vocational training. Some mentoring has been provided to the several workers Lot 2540 been able to hire on a limited basis.

Cochran says the ministry would like to work with a hotel or restaurant to provide vocational training regarding different aspects of running a business and even adding a restaurant as part of a homeless shelter. Providing the shelter would be the third phase of the project.

Ultimately the phase that matters is the changed lives, says Roberts. “God wants to use the broken and repurposed.”

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