Walking into Marketplace for All People, one hears the hum of conversation and a pianist playing hymns, encouraging the crowd to sing along.

Marketplace for All People, a ministry of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in downtown Toledo, is a free store that offers clothing, household and hygiene items, and a full food pantry. But it is more than a place to get free food and clothing. The Marketplace mission is to be in relationship with people.

“Relationships happen at the Marketplace,” says Keiyonda King. “It did a lot for me and my family.”

More than six years ago, King was a client of the Marketplace. “You met people,” she recalls, “and you kept seeing the same people. When you didn’t see someone, you missed them and wondered where they were.” Every Friday, the Marketplace serves about 65 people in the downtown Toledo area.

Born and raised in the community, King remembers how the Marketplace volunteers made her feel as their client. “They treated everyone the same,” she says. “I felt empowered.” Eventually, she became a volunteer.

Later, Rev. Mary Sullivan, the pastor at the time, saw King’s commitment and hard work and encouraged her to apply for the Marketplace coordinator position, but King wasn’t sure. “Pastor [Sullivan] took the time to explain my feelings,” King says, “and help me see my call to ministry was in this work.”

“Keiyonda is a kingdom builder through her sense of gratitude for what God has blessed her with,” Sullivan says. “Her response to that is to be generous with the mission and service she provides at St. Paul’s and the Marketplace. She is humbled by all God has blessed her with and is an authentic disciple of Christ.”

Through her service, King receives unexpected rewards. “This work fuels me,” she says. “I am rewarded, not by things I thought I wanted from God, but spiritually and emotionally.” The opportunity to share this love and emotion with her family is also a reward. “I see God everywhere,” King continues. “He speaks to me through this work.”

King looks positively toward the Marketplace’s future. In a young volunteer, King envisions the next Marketplace coordinator. “I see her light up after volunteering the way I used to,” King says. “It’s a feeling you can’t explain. She’s experiencing what it means to serve and feel it in your heart.

“In the future,” King adds, “I’d like to see a collage of things offered at Marketplace to enrich the community with programming. A place to learn a new skill or learn something simple like how to play a game. People want hope. They want something constant in their lives [that] they didn’t know they needed until they experience it.”

Marketplace for All People is that constant.

Click here to learn more about Marketplace for All People.

Click here for St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Facebook Page.

Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist