- Associated Press - Monday, December 21, 2015

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) - Four pennies. It was all “Debbie” had when Jackie Davis opened up her home to the mother and her baby girl.

Davis was living in Mountain Home at the time, around 30 years ago - and she still lives here today. She remembers talking to Debbie, a mother who had very little and needed a place to stay. The two met while Davis worked at the hospital full-time.

“She said, ‘I hate Mountain Home. I never have anything when I’m here. There’s nothing here.’” Davis recalls. Davis asked how much money Debbie had. The woman had four cents. “I said, well, you give me those four pennies and I will build homes for girls like you and children like yours.”

It wasn’t long before others started giving her pennies - one penny, maybe two pennies at a time. Davis says she collected enough change that she had to form a corporation. Project Love Inc. was established in 1986, during a time when Davis believed there wasn’t a whole lot of “love” in Mountain Home - few thrift stores and shelters, included.

“When I got those pennies, all of a sudden people would give me jars with nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars. It grew and grew and grew. Someone came and asked if we could open a thrift shop and that’s how we started. I had never wanted to own a thrift shop, but they said it would be a way to help people and cover office expenses. Almost 30 years later, here we are,” Davis said.

Davis has been the executive director and says she has used Project Love to help people with low income to pay their utility bills and provide clothing and items through missionaries. Its reach includes the Twin Lakes Area, but Davis says their help has reached as far as Central America, Mexico, Russia, Sudan, Somalia and Croatia. The nonprofit also makes monetary donations to shelters, outreaches and local food pantries.

Love has no boundaries in the organization’s work.

But recently, Davis announced that the Project Love thrift store will close its doors at the end of December. The organization says it ran out of savings to continue operating the store. Davis says Project Love has donated its store racks to Serenity Inc. and clothing and other items to a local food pantry.

The Baxter Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1RnekyN ) reports that Niki de Soto, executive director at Serenity, says one of Serenity’s long-term goals is to expand its current thrift store and is in phase two of its “Capital Campaign.” The campaign was started in 2012 to help build its current shelter on U.S. Hwy. 62 in Mountain Home. The resale shops support the mission of the domestic violence shelter

“We are very appreciative of the donation of the racks and other items as they are one of the most expensive parts of expanding a thrift store, and now, when we are ready to move forward with the larger store in the future, we will have those racks already on hand, ready to go,” de Soto said in an email. “Jackie and Project Love have always been such strong supporters of Serenity and our mission to assist survivors of domestic violence to rebuild their lives and move into healthy, independent futures. She is truly an amazing woman.”

Though Project Love’s store is closing, it does not mean the end for Project Love, Davis said, noting that the store and nonprofit are separate.

“Mountain Home has now projected so much love. We have the men’s shelter, we have the women’s shelter, Gamma House and we have my favorite place for women and children, Serenity,” Davis said, adding that Project Love was able to donate $23,000 to Serenity two years ago. “It’s a lot of love shown. With that, I can move away and do something else.”

Davis says she would like to provide guidance for older adults, including widows or people whose spouses have gotten older or transitioned to another place to live.

“We’re not sure what we’re going to do with the nonprofit right now. However, what I would really like to do is something I did before on my own … I would like to help them organize their home, make their life a little easier and listen to their stories,” Davis said.

She reminds herself of what she knows as “the widow’s mite” and of Debbie, the woman who gave all that she could.

“The community has been wonderful,” Davis said. “There’s no way this could have lasted on four cents.”

___

Information from: The Baxter Bulletin, http://www.baxterbulletin.com

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