by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
SENECA — When members of Linda Broxterman’s rosary group mentioned that there was no place to buy Christian- themed books in Seneca, it sparked an idea.
“One night, I just kind of drove around, found the building, found the merchandise,” Broxterman said. “I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept saying, ‘I can do this. I can do this.’”
Broxterman did do it, opening the Soul Provider Christian Book and Gift Store on Nov. 25, 1994, located at 521 Main St. in Seneca. And, with the help of volunteers, it has served the Seneca community for the past 25 years.
But, now, due to Broxterman’s recently declining health, it was questionable whether the store would be able remain open. That’s when she turned to Julie Strathman.
“I went on a scouting trip,” said Broxterman. “And the name [that] just kept coming back to me was Julie; I just couldn’t shake it.”
When it turned out Strathman would, indeed, purchase the store, Broxterman couldn’t have been happier.
“I was just thrilled that I was able to sell it in the first place,” Broxterman said.
And she was just as delighted with who bought it.
“I knew she was the right one for it,” said Broxterman.
Strathman said she had reservations when Broxterman first approached her.
“I’m still working full time as a school psychologist, and I kind of put her off,” Strathman said. “But when her health reasons came up, and there was a chance the store was going to close completely, [my husband and I] just didn’t feel that our hearts could let that happen.”
Strathman and her husband Leroy officially took ownership of Soul Provider on Feb. 1. Following a month of renovations, which included fresh paint and a more rustic feel, the store had a soft opening Feb. 29 and will host a grand opening celebration March 28.
“I knew there was a need in the community,” Strathman said. “We have an army of people [helping out]. It is still being run by volunteers, so that is how strongly the community feels about keeping this store here.
“I can’t believe the support we have gotten to continue Linda’s mission.”
Broxterman said that after opening the store, she realized the needs of the community went far beyond books and gifts.
“People come in and, invariably, they have a brother or an uncle or somebody that has just found out they have cancer [or some other challenge],” she said.
“And, more than anything, they just want to talk,” Broxterman continued. “After that happened a few times, they’d come in, and they’d ask for me.
“I was doing part-time counseling . . . and, really, with prayer, I was able to find something for them. It means so much to me that I did it.”
With that in mind, Strathman said she plans to incorporate that more into the store with Grace in Your Corner, an idea that stems from a mission begun by her oldest son Cory.
Grace in Your Corner will provide a space for people who need support and will provide resources or just someone to talk to, Strathman said.
“We’re not professional counselors, but there are resources there and people that can connect you with other people if you are looking for that,” Strathman said. “We’re not sure what that’s all going to entail, but we’ve gotten a lot of support from local agencies and hospitals that want to partner with us and make sure we get people the help that they need.
“It’s just knowing that there is someone who cares. If you want to tell them your story, somebody will be there to listen.”
Broxterman said she’s honored that Strathman is so dedicated to continuing the mission she began 25 years ago.
“That means everything to me. I did not expect that,” Broxterman said. “I am just astounded by what’s she’s doing, and I’m just so happy about it. It is an honor that I didn’t think I’d ever have.”
Soul Provider Christian Book and Gift Store is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed Sunday and Monday.
The grand opening is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 28 and will begin with a ribbon cutting and reception honoring Broxterman and the volunteers who have kept the store running.
But it won’t be the only chance for the community to see Broxterman.
“She’s not finished,” Strathman said. “She plans to come down and hang out at the store.“And we hope she does, because people still want to come down and see Linda!”