The Christian-based Repairers of the Breach organization assists those in need, including the homeless, the elderly and families who have experienced domestic abuse, loss of work and various other traumas.
Shirley Smith follows a straightforward motto: “I’m going to work until Jesus comes [back].” Smith, 80, has run the Christian-based Repairers of the Breach organization in Covington since 1991, and she has no plans to stop anytime soon. “I love every day that I get to come out here,” Smith said. “When I leave every day, I say, ‘God, you did it again.’ I said, ‘God, if you will run it, I will be your servant,’ and He did. God is at the helm of this ministry.”
When she retired from Bell South, Smith started the nonprofit organization as a thrift store prison ministry, along with her late husband Gene and two other couples, Julie and Richard Fairburn and Hub and Pat Doyle. They moved it into the same location along Washington Street in Covington where the building sits today, near where Smith was raised. It was once an old shirt factory before they took over in part, and they eventually acquired the entire 22,000-square-foot building.
Repairers of the Breach—which derives its name from Isaiah 58:12—helps area residents in need, from the homeless and elderly to those searching for a little extra assistance, like families who have experienced domestic abuse, loss of work or those who are dealing with an incarcerated member who was the primary income provider.
“God sends us people that we didn’t expect to get in,” Smith said.
“Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”Isaiah 58:12
She maintains a food pantry to assist those in crisis, gives away bread and bakery items on a weekly basis—sometimes the package includes dairy—and provides nightly meals onsite or to help buoy other volunteer organizations. The facility also houses shower and bath areas for those who are homeless or without power, and Smith gives clothing and household items to people who lack such necessities.
“Some have lost homes or have other factors,” she said, adding that those in need should come in to complete an application for assistance. The organization has a shop that is open to the public and sells items to help pay for services and employees who work at the location. It also helps provide Christmas for roughly 200 children each year and assists with other special needs like transportation and counseling.
“I enjoy that we are able to help a lot of people who are just down on their luck or people who society has cast out,” said Tonya Hammonds, who has worked at Repairers of the Breach since 1995 and now serves as the store manager. “A lot of these people who we are reaching are homeless or on drugs and don’t have any family support because they have burned those bridges, but we show them that there are people who care and [that] Jesus cares for them.”
Some 14 years ago, Repairers of the Breach helped start a church: Led by the Spirit Baptist Mission, now located in Porterdale inside the old hotel along Main Street. Since 2007, Smith’s nephew, Barney Johnson, has pastored the congregation, which originally started as an effort to help homeless people and others it served feel comfortable about attending church.
“It’s a come-as-you-are church and open to all,” Johnson said, adding that the congregation is comprised of all ages, races and backgrounds. “We’re a close-knit family.”
Repairers of the Breach receives no state funding and instead relies on money it receives from donations, yearly fundraisers and sales from the shop.
“I even have one lady who is faithful and sends $100 every month from California,” Smith said. “I’m thankful that God has been so good to us. We give Him all the honor, praise and glory because we couldn’t do it without Him.”
Repairers of the Breach accepts monetary donations and gifts of food, clothing and household items to give away or sell in the shop and also can arrange pickups in Newton and surrounding counties. Donations are tax deductible.
“We haven’t had a lot to do a lot with, but we’ve always managed to pay every bill and provide help for somebody else,” Smith said. “It’s a blessing. God knows what we need and sends it in.”
For more information on Repairers of the Breach, call 770-787-7250, visit their location at 5120 Old Brown Bridge Road SW in Covington or see them on Facebook. Hours of operation are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.