SERRV: The Mission Mart plays role in fighting poverty

LARRY GIERER/lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comSerena Sato, marketing director for the nonprofit SERRV International, shows off merchandise during a visit to Columbus.
LARRY GIERER/lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comSerena Sato, marketing director for the nonprofit SERRV International, shows off merchandise during a visit to Columbus.

Serena Sato says shops such as SERRV: The Mission Mart in Columbus help fight poverty around the world.

On a visit here earlier this month, the marketing director for the nonprofit SERRV International spoke about how the small business located within First Presbyterian Church on First Avenue works with the nonprofit organization.

"We need these places in order to be successful," Sato said.

She explained the organization provides opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide by purchasing items such as handcrafts and agricultural products and reselling them in this country.

By doing this, SERRV assists people to become economically self-sufficient. Product design and merchandising workshops and camps held in the communities are held to help people understand the American market. SERRV works with thousands of small-scale artisans and farmers helping them to support their family through fair payments and respectful relationships.

"Everything is paid for upon delivery," Sato said.

And shops like the one at First Presbyterian introduce the products to communities that might not see them otherwise.

Sato said the organization is particularly dedicated to fighting child labor in India where many boys and girls are deprived the opportunity to go to school. SERRV has helped communities in Mexico get trash pickup where there was none.

The Mission Mart is a good fit for the church.

First Presbyterian recently held its 13th annual Global Mission Conference at which Sato was a speaker. Since the conference began, the church has distributed almost a half a million dollars around the world.

The church's goal in 2016 is $32,000.

Among its causes are Benard's Vision School founded by the Rev. Benard Ondiek in Kenya, the Forman Christian College in Pakistan and missionaries Al and Ellen Smith in Russia. Money from the shop aids those missions and more.

"We have a calling to share God's Love," said the Rev. Joel Alvis, interim pastor at the church. "Supporting missions globally supporting the global missions a very big part of this church."

Alvis said the work done by SERRV and the Mission Mart is just another way of doing it.

The shop is located in a former intercessory prayer room.

It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Appointments may be made by calling 850-450-8611 or 706-984-9542.

An assortment of handmade crafts and agricultural products from more than 35 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are found there.

"The products are all high quality," Sato said. "It is a great place for people to find items that are really unique."

There are also catalogs from which items may be ordered.

The shop was the brainchild of church member Jenifer McCoy who attended a church in Florida that operated one. She works in the store.

"God has given me the time to do this," she said.

She said last year about $15,000 was netted at the shop. We did well," she said.

The kind of products sold has expanded.

"We are now getting into clothes and bedding," she said.

"This store is very successful and it is still growing," Sato said.

When asked about how much shopping she does with SERRV, she said her home in Wisconsin is filled with a particular item.

"I have a thing for baskets," she said, laughing.