The Heart Behind Milledgeville Cares
“There was a girl that came in to return a bag of items, and she said that she had shoplifted them from us [sometime before],” said Larry Houston from the counter of Auntie Bellum’s Attic, the downtown antique shop he and Debbie have run for the past 11 years. “I sat her down and talked to her, and I told her she needed to go to church. About a year later, her mother came in and thanked me for helping her daughter. I didn’t know them, but we’re very laid back and try to be understanding. We try to help as many people as we can help.”
In the nearly 40 years the Houstons have lived in Milledgeville with more than a decade of running their shop, Larry and Debbie have been a consistent force for good in Milledgeville and Baldwin County. Although the couple has always been charitable and treated others with respect and humility, in recent years they have aggressively served the community with help from one of Milledgeville’s true charity mavericks, Louise Sallstrom, who began Milledgeville Cares, Inc. in 2009 after she retired from teaching.
“Through the business, we get different things that aren’t suitable for the shop, and we store them and make them available for Louise when she needs them for her organization, Milledgeville Cares,” said Debbie. Having been friends for many years, they have helped this mission in many significant ways – donating items, delivering items, picking up donations, and they provided warehouse space for free, so that Milledgeville Cares has been able to use all their financial donations for their clients.
The Houstons, along with the volunteer members, are true angels, but God is the heart of the mission. Milledgeville Cares is blessed with the connections God has made consistently throughout twelve years of service. Case in point, God helped a couple who were desperate for a bedroom suite due to a medical problem which made sleeping difficult. Two days later, someone called to donate one!
Another instance of divine intervention was when an elderly lady who was moving out of town, and she wanted to donate furniture. She needed help quickly because she had been waiting for weeks for someone to help her. Without hesitation, Gary Swinger and his friend drove up in his truck to help do the moving.
On another eventful day, Jackie Jackson, contractor, showed up at the office with his son, Chris, to offer carpentry service! This led to the first of three “rehabs” – weatherizing homes and repairing unsafe problems while teaching our clients, all of whom had serious medical issues, how to save money on their utility bills.
God is the author, the sustainer, the ROCK of the mission. Those who volunteer with Milledgeville Cares are humble servants serving our Heavenly Father by loving all God’s children and working together in unity.
*Please note, this article, though slightly edited by us, was published by the Union Recorder newspaper in Milledgeville in March of 2018. The last paragraph has been added in order to illustrate how God has blessed Milledgeville Cares. Larry and Debbie Houston have given significantly, more than any other for sure, to the success of this mission, and everyone associated with this ministry agrees that we are nothing without the compassion and generosity of a gracious God, who is our heart.