The Go Store in Conway began three years ago with the simple desire to give to those who had nothing but has grown into a fully-functioning plan to meet the needs of thousands of young children who live across the globe.
Owned by Andy and Erica Cason, the Go Store, located at 807 Court St., is a place for people to come in and pack Operation Christmas Child (OCC) gift boxes for less than can be spent other places.
That idea, Erica said, began years ago when she and her husband were in a store and saw a cart of socks on sale and purchased them all.
"We just felt like it was something God wanted us to do," she said.
Erica packed her first box when she was in high school and continued through college and developed a passion for the cause, becoming a volunteer and now serving as the area team community relations coordinator.
"The Go Store has kind of grown out of that and out of that passion," she said. "If I’m going to give $20 to the cause of Christ, to me the best way that money is spent is through a shoe box."
With toys like soccer balls and jump ropes to pre-packed hygiene kits to clothing and other items, the new downtown location gives the community a way to do more by purchasing items from online suppliers, discount merchandise warehouses and other local retailers offering sales.
Erica said the program has grown significantly in the past several years from its original location at the Conway Ministry Center, which gave them space for about three months, storing items in their attic and all corners of their house with stuff they’d buy throughout the year with their own finances for others to purchase to pack the boxes.
"It was just getting way too big to be temporary," she said.
Through the help of many volunteers, including members of the Conway High School Key Club, the Casons were able to set up shop this year in their new space and welcomed all different school groups and businesses in to shop for a cause.
"It’s surprising how many more people are getting involved or just being introduced to [Operation Christmas Child] by virtue of being here," Erica said.
She said the Go Store is a part of a six-county OCC area that spans from Russellville to Mayflower to Clinton and more. Erica said the whole area packs around 15,000 shoe boxes a year with the store in Conway doing about half of that.
While the season to pack shoe boxes has recently come to an end, the store owners are still encouraging others to come in and pack for next year.
"National collection week is third week of November every year," she said. "We welcome others doing any angel tree or other Christmas gift giving etc. with us."
That year-round idea, Erica said, is something they are actually striving for: the hope of being able to stay open not just during the holiday season to accommodate the needs of other organizations in the community who are in need of more for less.
"Being a permanent location just allows us to try to partner with other ministries," she said. "We would love to be a hub of volunteering and doing those things."
While opening the store was a huge sacrifice for her family — she even quit her job as a physical therapist to do it full-time — being able to help those in need and teach her children about what it means to give is all worth it.
"You know the reason, honestly, that we do anything for other people is just because of the work of Jesus in our hearts," Erica said. "We feel like we’ve been loved by him and out of that comes our love for other people."
For more information about store hours or questions about the cause, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the store’s Facebook page.