HOPKINS, Minn. - There is a small sign above the door of a Hopkins strip mall, but what lies behind that door is there because one Minnetonka woman's huge heart.
Reach & Restore, Inc., started in Ronda Oliver's garage in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, inhabits a 6,500 square foot warehouse. It is full of items that families need to help get them back on their feet.
Oliver says it's a ministry of faith. "It's what drives me here every day and I can't... no money could pay me for this. It's just a total joy to serve," she says, through sincere tears. After helping Katrina victims, Oliver learned that there was plenty of need surrounding her in the west metro. The group has moved from a garage to a barn to a basement, before landing in Hopkins. Last year, Reach & Restore helped almost 500 people, giving away 5,000 pieces of clothing. More than 400 families received furniture from the organization in 2011.
"I think the thing that's most interesting about Ronda is her humility. She is one of the most humble people I know, and yet she has a fierceness about her that makes it difficult for anyone to say no to her," friend and volunteer Susan Thompson explained.
KARE 11 spent the day with Oliver, and learned just how much her organization and ministry is appreciated. "Everybody seems to be in a bind in this economy right now and it's a good outlet," Joy Adams said as she picked out birthday presents for her 12 year old daughter.
It would be difficult to find an individual more thankful than Dale Ekert, who lives at the Salvation Army when he can scrounge up enough money for bus fare. "They make you feel comfortable, like you're not the only one going through this situation. Basically I'm starting all over again in my life," he explained.
A few minutes later, he was fighting tears as he embraced Oliver after she gave him a refurbished 10 speed bicycle to help him get around.
"Just the little things that we take for granted, if someone cares about those little needs, I think they really do feel cared for," Oliver concluded. And that makes Ronda Oliver an "Eleven Who Care" recipient, an honor she calls "shocking."
Reach & Restore pre-screens its clients who are referred to their warehouse by churches, clients, and other organizations. Visits to the facility are by appointment only. Here's a link with more information.
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