In 1995, a small group of concerned neighbors and faith leaders in Williamson County, Tennessee, came together to formulate a comprehensive, collaborative solution to the complex issue of poverty in their community. The ministry they began, GraceWorks Ministries Inc., was and is guided by its motto, “Neighbor serving Neighbor, by the power of God’s grace.”
The GraceWorks founders realized that most area nonprofits and churches could focus on only one or two services at any time. However, low-income residents had multiple, diverse needs – from food, clothing, housing, transportation, and financial assistance. GraceWorks knew they would need to take a different approach to meet their neighbors’ comprehensive needs. By pooling church resources with private and public sector resources, GraceWorks has been able to offer comprehensive services to many individuals and families in need.
Specifically, GraceWorks has implemented three types of programs for local residents. With the collaborative help of the local community, GraceWorks founded the Food Program, Shelter Program, and Support Program. Each of these efforts is unique but has the same goal- serving their neighbor in need.
How Does the Organization Help?
After running out of room in their first building, GraceWorks opened another warehouse to set up a food pantry and a clothing and furniture store. Recognizing the major hunger issue in Williamson County, GraceWorks focused on investing in their neighbors and serving them by offering food carts, student fuel bags, food boxes during the holidays, and a mobile food pantry.
Williamson County is known as an affluent county not typically characterized by issues with poverty; however, this is misleading. Poverty is an issue in Williamson County. Many of its residents need help paying a portion of their gas bill or making rent payments, and many require food assistance of various kinds. The reasons and causes behind these needs are varied and can result from unforeseen or suddenly changing circumstances. For many years now, GraceWorks has been able to step in and support neighbors in various situations of need. There are nearly 270 on-site volunteers and 50 staff members serving their neighbors each week. Last year, GraceWorks provided love and support to over 13,500 neighbors.
In addition to their ongoing programs, GraceWorks serves its neighbors via several special events.
One of GraceWork’s main events is called “The Manger.” The Manger is a free store-like shopping experience at Christmas time to help low-income neighbors obtain gifts for their children. The Manger allows these families to choose Christmas gifts in a festive shopping experience. The Manger helps at least 2000 kids annually and allows the parents to be prayed for while they shop the entire floor for free. The store also includes clothing and furniture as well as mini toys. During Christmas in 2022, The Manger project gave children over a thousand gifts.
Other special GraceWork events include an annual dinner, auctions, golf tournaments, and a November fun run called the Turkey Trot.
The serving hearts of this community to “love one another” and provide basic needs for their neighbors is a beautiful example for each of us. This grace-filled community creates a safe space for their neighbors to find support without shame. GraceWorks is a powerful example of what Christ’s love and compassion look like for people’s need.