By Michelle Hiskey

Rev. Derwent Suthers

A group of churches in Brookhaven hope to turn white elephants into help for the needy with a new thrift shop opening in Chamblee.

The store, at 3550 Broad Street in the Broad Street Antiques Mall, will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The store was scheduled to open Aug. 13.

Proceeds from the sale of gently used clothing, furniture and household items will help fund the Suthers Center for Christian Outreach, where the thrift shop is located.

The 5,000-square-foot center plans to offer a food pantry and emergency financial assistance for families and individuals who live in the 30319 and 30341 ZIP codes.

The food pantry is scheduled to move from Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church into the center in October, and the emergency financial assistance will move from Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church in 2011, said Judi Oakley, a St. Martin’s parishioner.

“Our initial focus will be on building awareness and traffic for the thrift shop so it quickly begins to contribute to the outreach mission as soon as possible,” said center manager Jack Morris, a part-time Georgia State University professor.

The thrift shop and center are the collaboration of the Brookhaven Christian Ministries, which along with SaintMartin’s and Oglethorpe includes Brookhaven Christian Church, St. James Methodist Church and Brookhaven United Methodist Church.

CAROLINE ROSE Judi Oakley, a parishioner at Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church, tags items to be sold at the Suthers Center for Christian Outreach thrift shop on Broad Street in Chamblee. Volunteers from Brookhaven churches will staff the shop, and proceeds will help fund assistance to the needy in the 30319 and 30341 ZIP codes.

The Suthers Center honors the career of the Rev. Derwent Suthers, 78, a priest at Saint Martin’s who recently retired after 55 years.

He had focused his ministry on helping others, while also cultivating an avocation of painting. Nicknamed “The Painting Padre,” Suthers retired to Arizona in the spring after auctioning a number of his acrylic works on wood and giving the proceeds to the center named for him.

“This center was a surprise to me, but I hope they succeed now that it has my name on it,” Suthers said with a smile at the dedication in March. “I hope it serves a lot of people who need it.”

“The irony is that he’s retiring when the center that carries his name will open,” said Saint Martin parishioner Belinda Wedgwood. “That tells you that when one door closes, there are always blessings [elsewhere]. You just need to know where to look.”

Suthers patterned his work after the patron saint of his parish. Martin was a Fourth Century soldier who tore his military cloak and gave half to a beggar. The soldier dreamed the poor man was Christ. Martin became a monk and was buried with the poor he served.

“We are thankful for this new opportunity to share the cloak and serve others in our community,” said the Rev. John McCard, rector of Saint Martin’s, in a prayer at the center’s dedication.

Suthers helped bring together the churches of various faiths as Brookhaven Christian Ministries, which also builds Habitat for Humanity homes.

At the Suthers center, members of the coalition churches will volunteer in the thrift shop, food pantry and behind the scenes.

“A big challenge in the beginning of the project was finding the right location and we are very pleased to have secured the Broad Street space, as it is close to the MARTA train station and bus lines, making it more convenient for people to access our services,” said Caroline Rose, a parishioner at Saint Martin’s. “We also expect to benefit from the surrounding retail traffic.”

At the thrift store, donations are accepted and tax deductible. For more information, visit sutherscenter.org