Lake County residents and many who live in neighboring counties are familiar with the little Harbor Town of Fairport, Ohio. This little town is home to one very pleasant beach that my husband and I occasionally drive to on Saturday nights to sit on our favorite bench, watch the peaceful waters roll in and out, until we finally watch a gorgeous sun finally sink down, down, then out of sight. As we wait for this very pleasant and relaxing scene to happen, there's usually a dog or two frolicking in the waves as they attempt to catch that frisbee that was thrown out there especially for them. I, more times than not, am reading aloud, the next chapter of Bill O'Reilly's book, Killing Lincoln, to my husband and myself. (All of the proceeds from this book purchase go to The Wounded Warriors Project.) My husband Mitchell, has commented often, how blessed we are to have both Fairport's and Mentor's Beach so close, and wonder why we don't take even more advantage of them.
Almost 36 years ago, we had rented our first little (furnished) apartment in a large home, in this little Harbor Town, on High Street. One Sunday morning before church, my water broke. I set off to the hospital and soon gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl who we named Holly Michelle. It would be Holly, Hally, or Haley...but 'Holly' just seemed right. "Holly Berry" would be the worst 'nickname' she would ever have to 'endure'...just the way I planned it. Only 5 lbs. 12 oz. and sweet as they came...but from ages 2 - 5 years old we would find that this one was ready to take on the world! We had a time of reprieve from age 6-13, which I will treasure forever, but after age 13th...I take the fifth! (And I think she would too!) As I remember, we didn't take as many pictures as parents do today, and we only owned a 110 camera, so most of the pictures that we did take, (mainly just at birthdays and holidays) eventually turned an odd orange-y color. We do, however have some great ones that were taken by Olan Mills Photography. Thank God for Olan Mills!
Anyway, down the road of Holly's life she would meet 'Mr. Right,' have a beautiful wedding and get married. After three years she had a beautiful little girl herself, that they named Olivia Grace. Our first grandchild! What a tremendous blessing she has been. After 5 years of marriage, however, she found herself a divorcee and caught in the poverty cycle that so many young moms find themselves in these days. For nine years she worked as a waitress, cleaned with me in my cleaning business (T.L.C. Home & Office Cleaning, Inc.) and shyly pulled out her food stamp card at the grocery store. We helped as we were able, and when we would see needs, but Holly was never one to ask for help often. She was a hard worker and still had that independent spirit that longed for purpose and a brighter day for her and Olivia. They say that single mothers are among the most poverty stricken of any group, and it is true. In my opinion, all the churches should have ministries to help them, without exception, with minor house repairs, car repairs, oil changes, new tires, utility bills, and things like that. Nine years of such difficult living caused her to write a book called: "Looking Out Restaurant Windows" which will be able to be purchased on line, very soon.
About 4 years ago now, God brought a great man into her life. They were both in the throngs of finding God in their lives again, and ended up encouraging one another in this endeavor. They met as he brought his mom for lunch at the Paradise restaurant where Holly had worked for six years. His mom had been going through chemotherapy, and it was the ONLY restaurant where she could 'stomach' the food, for some reason...(Im JusSayin...God works in mysterious ways!) They began their relationship as friends, taking their kids to circuses and parks together, but soon fell in love and got married. Geuss where they ended up buying their first home? You guessed it! Fairport Harbor. Her grandfather, Frank Curtiss was born and raised there. We lived there for a short time, as I've already shared...and now - she has boomeranged back!
Holly has always had a heart for those who struggle financially because of the ongoing financial challenges that she and Olivia had endured. One day Holly and her husband David received a 'divine' idea to put up signs and gather as many clothes as they could and have a one day 'FREE CLOTHES' event for the community. With the recession hitting hardest on the poor and many struggling to find work, they wanted to be of help to many of their neighbors and those living in the community. Through another 'divine' chain of events...one thing again, leading to another...they opened up THE FREE STORE at the top of High Street hill. You're reading this right! It's a store where the items within are all FREE! Almost immediately, God sent two men, Dave and Dan to help out in as many ways as you could possibly imagine. What an incredible help to them! Then others followed, including many friends from their church, Trinity Baptist in Mentor, Ohio. They have been able to help hundreds of people now, young and old alike, with free clothing, personal care items, small household appliances. Possibly in the future they will be located in a larger facility so that they can accommodate more, but that's about it for now. They also connect people who have larger items like beds, refrigerators, etc. that want to give them for free - to those who need those very things! What a blessing to both the giver and receiver when these things work out! Remember, Jesus DID say, "It is more blessed to give, than to receive!"
Their store is open every Thursday and Friday from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm. If it is impossible for you to go then, they will allow you to visit on Wednesday night from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. by appointment only. Wednesday night is also when they accept donations. They are taking clean, summer clothing at this time, along with any of the items listed above, along with monetary donations to advance the cause of helping those in need and to continue to see the store remain and grow. They are hoping to purchase a truck/van for deliveries.
At this pace, it looks to me like they may soon be outgrowing their present location. They believe that they will be remaining in Fairport as long as, "the Lord wills" and if they are to leave, he will guide them as to where. You may also want to visit the Finnish Museum, and/or patron the other three stores that have opened in the same stretch of building as THE FREE STORE, (on the left side, on High Street, before you go down the hill to the beach.) One is called The Marine Store, the second is, The Windsurf Shop and the third is: The Sand Castle which hosts the Noah's Ark Bible Club. Their Vacation Bible School starts this Monday (June 18 - 20.) Times: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The Fairport Family Restaurant is right across the street and is definitely worth the trip into Fairport also. My husband would tell you, "Try the Reuben, it was great!" I recently met a few girlfriends there before we visited THE FREE STORE with some clothing and items we had gathered to donate...and our breakfasts were outstanding!
One of Holly's favorite scriptures is: Proverbs 3:5&6 - Trust in the Lord, with all of your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In ALL your ways, acknowledge Him - and He WILL direct your paths. Good CAN and DOES come out of bad...ImJusSayin' look how the pain and difficulties of one young woman have turned into the joy and blessing of so many others! Her husband David is credentialed in the ministry now, and is often found sharing the love of God with those who come in searching. Many would attest to having had their lives 'immensely blessed' by this very important part of the Fairport FREE STORE, also!