Although not a single mom herself, Janie Clark attended a conference for single moms in 2012 hosted by Arizona Women’s Ministries.
“I was deeply moved during that conference with the conditions of the single moms who attended,” says Clark, who has been a member of Dream City Church (formerly Phoenix First Assembly) for 34 years. “Some lived in their cars because they didn’t have money for a deposit on an apartment. Some had part-time jobs and struggled to balance work and care for their children.”
Clark went home that weekend deeply disturbed about the needs of the single moms she had met. She told her husband, Ed about the myriad challenges single parents faced.
Clark realized she had some know-how that could be useful in helping the women. She had taught several business classes as a result of being founder and president of Clark & Associates Financial Services in Scottsdale. She likewise had gained experience working with Adult & Teen Challenge, a ministry of AG U.S. Missions.
Over dinner, Clark shared her burden with friends Perry and Joanne Pauley. Perry also had been involved with Teen Challenge, and immediately understood the need.
“We had both helped with other ministries financially, but had not been hands on,” Clark says. “The challenges before us would be new.”
Clark devised a plan to open a thrift store, a place where single moms could not only find apparel, but also receive job training. The Pauleys agreed to help. Two days later, Clark signed a lease on a 1,500-square-foot building near Dream City Church. The former delicatessen had fallen into disrepair. Clark stayed late into evenings cleaning, scrubbing, and removing flooring. She spent $20,000 of her funds on new carpet, paint, and equipment.
Tommy Barnett, founder of Los Angeles Dream Center, and Angel Barnett, wife of Luke Barnett, current senior pastor of Dream City Church, agreed to serve on the board of the thrift store. The board decided to call the new ministry Angela’s Treasures. Angela is Perry and Joanne’s daughter, who, as a single woman, adopted a little boy whose birth mother had been imprisoned after a drug conviction. After the woman gave birth to a daughter, Angela adopted her as well. Angela is now married, and has a biological son.
Some Phoenix Dream Center staff members helped build dressing rooms for Angela’s Treasures. Two and a half weeks after Janie signed the lease, the doors of the thrift center opened.
Clark invited single moms to volunteer to work in the thrift shop in exchange for donated clothes. In the first five years, 32 single parents — the majority of them women — have been trained to work in the store. Following the initial volunteer phase, the store began paying single parents to work.
After five years of operation, Clark gave Angela’s Treasures, which now sells furniture as well as apparel, to the Phoenix Dream Center to operate. She still will help train single moms. The church has renamed the enterprise Reclaimed Thrift, which benefits the dream center. It has been included in the church’s Thrive Foster Care Prevention and Unification ministry.
“Thrive's vision is to come alongside single moms who are at risk of losing their children or are being reunified with children that are in the foster care system,” says Steve Vogel, chief fund development officer for the Phoenix Dream Center Foundation. “Our goal is to support single moms in the prevention and reunification process to build stability and create hope for a positive future.”
Clark is convinced that every church could operate a thrift store, because so many Christians are willing to contribute, either materially or of their time.
“We so often throw money away on fancy cars or restaurants instead of helping others,” Clark says. “But we found that donations just poured in for the thrift store. So many people can help with just an hour to volunteer, and you never know how that one hour will touch people.”