Editor’s note: Although Protestants generally use the term “minister” to refer to a member of the clergy, not every minister in the Catholic Church wears a Roman collar.
In fact, by their very baptism, all Catholics are called to serve.
In a new series called Ministry Insider, The Leaven is inviting ministers in all fields of endeavor to share their stories — and the story of their ministry — with our readers.
To kick off the series, Dave Brewer, the manager of one of the three TurnStyles Thrift stores here in the archdiocese, has agreed to take readers inside his ministry.
Q. What is your title and where do you minister?
A. I am the manager of the TurnStyles Thrift store that is located at 5304 Martway in Mission. It is the third of three thrift stores run by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. The other two are located at 9750 W. 87th St. in Overland Park and 11310 W. 135th Street, also in Overland Park.
Q. Please describe what you do.
A. At TurnStyles Thrift, we accept donations of new or gently used clothing, home goods and furniture. The money raised from sales supports more than 20 Catholic Charities programs and services.
Q. How would you describe how that fits into the larger mission of the Catholic Church?
A. The church is meant to share the Gospel. To me, that means loving your neighbor. TurnStyles Thrift offers us the opportunity to provide low-cost alternatives to the retail giants. Additionally, the funds raised support our ministry programs. This also offers support and assistance to people and families in need.
Q. Is this what you set out to do in life?
A. Not originally. My background is in computer programming, application development and database management. But I always wanted what I do day to day to be meaningful.
Q. Then, what road led you to this place?
A. I have to go back a bit to give the full picture. Both my mom and my parish priest gave me a solid foundation in our faith. Part of that was that faith without love, specifically love in action, is dead. I was raised in the understanding that the practical expression of faith was in how you lived your life. If you only lived for yourself and your own interests, you weren’t fully alive. Through years of private and public education, my faith remained an important part of my life.
In my late 20s, I felt tension between the importance of that faith and my work. I felt the work I performed in my job wasn’t meaningful or impactful, except to a corporation’s bottom line. I looked for ways to balance the two, to find an outlet for my desire for meaningful work. My search led me to volunteering. That led me to Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. I had always admired and respected the work Catholic Charities did for those in need.
Over time, I found peace and joy in volunteering and serving a purpose I firmly believed in. One of the staff I worked with mentioned that they were looking for people to work full time in the ministry and suggested I apply. It felt like I was being called to finally make a choice between the two paths I had been walking. From there, the decision to commit to working in nonprofit full time was obvious.
Q. Did you collect some skills from other jobs along the way that have proved surprisingly helpful?
A. I used to write a lot in my free time and I learned technical writing in college. That has proven useful in explaining, for example, the real-world value of an hour of volunteering at our stores. People need to know the time they give has value, that the work they do is important. Being able to explain that is essential.
Q. What would the average Catholic be most surprised to learn about your job?
A. Even though we are on the retail side of the agency, we are still encouraged to live our faith. Opportunities for prayer are highlighted regularly. At the start of each week, we are all invited to pray together for each other’s intentions. Team and departmental meetings usually start with prayer as well.
Q. Who does your ministry primarily serve?
A. Catholic Charities serves the most vulnerable children, men and women throughout the 21 counties of northeast Kansas. Anyone in that area in need of food, shelter, clothing or financial assistance can come to our ministry and find help.
Q. What do you wish everybody knew about your ministry?
A. Two things: First, all our efforts begin with local support and stay local. Donations, whether they are goods, food or volunteer hours, are helping our neighbors on a practical, substantial level.
Secondly, people hear the name Catholic Charities and sometimes assume it means you have to be Catholic. I think it’s important to share that anyone of any background can receive assistance from our programs, and anyone of any faith background can work with us. “Catholic,” after all, means “universal.”
Q. Why does the world need more of what you’re offering, especially right now?
A. I think a lot of people feel alone. They might wonder if they have value and are loved. The work we do, I hope, helps remind them that they have dignity, that they matter to those around them, that they deserve healthy food and comfortable clothing, support and understanding.
Q. What have you learned about people in this job?
A. I’ve learned that the vast majority of people want to help each other. They just need an outlet and an opportunity. Having a clear and meaningful purpose — and then seeing the value of your work fulfilled in others’ happiness — I think more of us would be happy if we sought after that each day.
Q. What have you learned about yourself?
I’ve learned that I can walk 25,000 steps in a day and keep going! To be serious, I have learned patience, slowing down, taking time to try to understand others and never assuming that just because you can see a person in front of you, you know anything about their life’s challenges.
Most of the time, when someone seems stressed out and is spreading that to those around them, simply giving them time and room to express what they feel can help alleviate that.
Q. How has it changed the way you view your identity as a Catholic?
A. My life as a Catholic used to be a more individual, internal experience. Now, it has become more external and communal. It’s expressed through work and word as much as it is through prayer or meditation.
To learn more about Turnstyles Thrift in Mission, click here.
Brewer has been working with Catholic Charities for three years. He lives in Mission and attends St. Agnes Church in Roeland Park.