The Best Little Thrift Store You’ve Never Heard Of

The Best Little Thrift Store You’ve Never Heard Of

Day Davis

Content Engagement Specialist

At some point in your life, you have probably heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” And if you have ever visited a thrift store, then you know that is, in fact, true.

If you have stopped by Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church in the last few years, you have seen firsthand all of the treasures that can be found covering the ground floor of their church building. From large furniture items to children’s toys and household knickknacks, this little slice of paradise for any local thrifter is QQThrift.

QQThrift started when, like many churches, Quapaw Quarter UMC wanted to find a way to raise money for its donation-run missions while also witnessing to the needs of the community. When the idea of a thrift store was discussed, all of the pieces seemed to fall into place.

Since opening, the thrift store has been a huge success, thanks to the help of volunteers and church members, many of whom have generously donated a lot of the merchandise, including some valuable antiques that are sold on eBay. Church member Joe Rook, who runs estate sales, was able to help the church obtain donations to get the thrift store started.

Harold Hughes, lay member and QQThrift volunteer, said there was a twofold purpose for opening the thrift store: “to generate revenue for the church, and to serve as outreach to the homeless and financially disadvantaged in the area.”

In addition to keeping nonperishable sack lunches available for the homeless, they are also provided with clothing and the like from the thrift store’s inventory.

“We manage to hand out food and clothing to the homeless every day we are open, much as we do through our church office during the week,” said Hughes.

The thrift store is managed by longtime church members Sandy Bidwell and Lisa Smith and staffed by several volunteer church members and friends. Even with very little advertising done for the thrift store, they have watched it become an important part of their ministry.

The building that Quapaw Quarter UMC is located in has been a staple in downtown Little Rock for almost 100 years, even being added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 22, 1982. It was placed for sale years ago, but after the church decided to stay in the location and the building was taken off the market, the church realized it had lost connection with the community.

“We had our building for sale for a while, and many of our neighbors actually thought we were gone,” Hughes said.

An unforeseen benefit of the thrift store is that the church has gained new members and revived attention in the area.

“One of the outcomes of establishing this ministry is that it has raised our awareness in the immediate community,” said Hughes. “Now we are becoming more and more part of the fiber of South Main Street.”

After closing for a year and a half during the pandemic, they reopened last June and have been open regularly ever since.

With a core base of a little over a dozen volunteers and a constant stream of customers, Hughes said he sees this being an ongoing ministry that he hopes will become an every-weekend thing in the future.

Hughes added, “As long as this ministry keeps working, we will be there!”


QQThrift is located on the ground level of Quapaw Quarter UMC at 16th and Louisiana in Downtown Little Rock and is currently open on the second and fourth weekends of each month from 2 to 5 p.m. on Fridays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

If you’re interested in volunteering, please visit the Quapaw Quarter UMC website.

Learn more about QQThrift on their Facebook page.

All proceeds go directly to the church in an attempt to keep it and its donation-run missions active in their current downtown historic-building location.

Rev. Troy Conrad Speaks on Racism Through History

The Malvern Historical Society, with a grant from the state of Arkansas, recently presented a forum about racism through history. The forum was held on the 100th-anniversary date of the lynching of Malvern resident John Henry Harrison in 1922. Harrison, a black man, was killed by a mob of 200 people on the courthouse steps. The mob was described in the newspapers as “orderly and quiet.”

During the forum, many other examples of lynchings in Arkansas were discussed and the chilling effects they had on black families in the state. Many psychological effects and generational poverty still exist today because of the fear they instilled.

Presenters at the forum included Tom Dillard, a historian specializing in Arkansas History. Mr. Dillard was the Director of Special Collections at the University of Arkansas and continues to write a weekly column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He has been president of both the Arkansas Historical Association and the Arkansas Museums Association.

Dr. Guy Lancaster serves as the editor of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. He is the author of several books on racial violence in Arkansas including, “American Atrocity: the Types of Violence in Lynching.”

Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch is the James and Wanda Lee Vaughn Professor of History and Dean of the Graduate School at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She is the author of many articles and books including, “Crossing the Line: Women and Interracial Activism.”

Nathaniel Mitchell is a lifelong resident of Malvern and an expert in African American history in Hot Spring County. His latest project was compiling a digital collection of obituaries for African American people for the last 100 years.

Dr. Michael Washington is the Founder and Director of the Black Studies Program at Northern Kentucky University. Dr. Washington has led many workshops and seminars all over the world to help dismantle racism.

Rev. Troy Conrad is an elder in the United Methodist Church and an author for the Conference curriculum, “Having the Conversation.” He is currently finishing his doctorate degree.

Nearly 200 people attended the forum, including many history students at Malvern High School. Participants heard both presentations and held a question and answer session with the panel. For more information about how to get the Bible Study curriculum “Having the Conversation” here.

Bryan Diffee’s Puppet Ministry

Bryan Diffee’s Puppet Ministry

Diane Wright

contributing writer

What began as an elementary school passion has morphed into a ministry for Rev. Bryan Diffee, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Monticello.

“I first became interested in puppetry and ventriloquism at the age of 8 when I would watch Edgar Bergen, Willie Tyler, and Jay Johnson doing ventriloquial routines on television. My parents purchased me a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll from the Sears catalog and I have been hooked ever since,” Diffee said.

From age 8 until high school, Diffee did ventriloquism but put the hobby aside during high school and college. It was after he attended the annual Vent Haven International Ventriloquist’s Convention in Kentucky in 2017 that he became passionate about the art form. According to Diffee, that conference helped him grow in both confidence and performance skills.

Now, Diffee considers ventriloquism a ministry at the church he serves. “As a United Methodist pastor who moves around, ventriloquism has given me a different kind of connection than I would normally have with a community or a particular congregation,” Diffee said. “Ventriloquism has allowed me to connect with people in nursing homes, preschools, libraries, and community events in a way I would not be able to in just my traditional clergy role. I see it as an extension of my pastoral ministry.”

Diffee primarily uses two puppets in church: Eugene, an older man that enjoys life and is most often dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, yellow shorts, and his signature duck slippers. The second most used puppet, and the favorite of all the children, is Ferd the Bird. “He made his first appearance at Vacation Bible School last summer, and now all the children want to know when he is going to fly to church again.”

Brenda Wright, Children’s Minister at FUMC Monticello, says Diffee’s puppets offer a different kind of connection with the church. “The children clearly are invested in this ministry by their keen interest and attentiveness,” she said. “They seem to hold onto every word Bro. Bryan and his puppets say. Parents have shared with us that the children love to talk about what the puppets say to them.”

Although the puppets are primarily for the children, Wright says the puppet ministry brings joy to the children and to the adults. “Joy and laughter bring such hope!”

Diffee agrees. “All adults are just children at heart and laughter is great medicine for the ailments and stressors of life. Proverbs 17:22 says, ‘A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.’ I love the way that God has used this simple art form to connect with, and bring smiles to children, youth, and adults.”

Rogers FUMC Celebrates National Pet Month

Rogers FUMC Celebrates National Pet Month

Caroline Ezell

contributing writer

In honor of National Pet Month, First United Methodist Church of Rogers hosted a ribbon-cutting for the city’s Little Free Pet Pantry.

“The celebration of the little free pet pantry was a delightful surprise movement from the Spirit,” said Reverend Kjorlaug of the First United Methodist Church.

Pet lovers of all walks gathered in Downtown Rogers to celebrate the opening earlier this month. The pet pantry, located in the church’s parking lot, contains free pet food and supplies donated by the community.

The event on May 2 was an opportunity to collect contributions for the pantry and to acknowledge the local Girl Scouts who envisioned the project. The Humane Society was invited to host an adoption pop-up booth at the event. Participating animals included dogs, cats, a lizard, and a chicken.

“It was a great way to engage our community, uplift another non-profit that’s trying to make a difference in the community, and it was a fun occasion to highlight the joy that animals bring into our lives,” Kjorlaug added.

Blessings were offered to all pets in attendance, including the Humane Society’s adoptees, by Reverend Kjorlaug. “Our pets bring so much love and joy into our daily lives, to share in a time of blessing them gives us a great opportunity to celebrate and thank our animals for all they add to our lives,” said Kjorlaug.

Rev. Jim Cross Leads 10th annual IMPACT event

Rev. Jim Cross Leads 10th annual IMPACT event

Diane Wright

contributing writer

Listening to the radio ten years ago, Rev. Jim Cross heard a story about a man riding a horse across the country to raise money for a charity. “Maybe I can do something like that with my walk,” Rev. Cross thought.

For the past ten years, Rev. Cross, who pastors Ashdown, Richmond, and Wade’s Chapel United Methodist Churches in the Ashdown area leads the walk and also walks approximately thirty miles to raise money for local non-profits, foundations, scholarships, and community benevolence. “I walk every morning,” Rev. Cross said, “and what I have learned is God will provide way more than we thought or imagined.”

This year the 10th Annual IMPACT 2022: Walking for Christ event was held on April 9, and brought together people from the community to “glorify God, serve others and bring the community together.”

So far this year, $26,103 has been raised for the Ashdown community and surrounding areas with a 10-year total of $221,212 raised. “People are still giving. It has become year-round,” Cross added.

This year monies raised have been donated to Ashdown City Parks, Richmond Volunteer Fire Department, Two Rivers Museum, Ashdown Public Library, Harvest Regional Food Bank, Be Like CJ Foundation, Owl’s Wing, and Marlee’s Smile, in addition to medical expense support and scholarships for several local students to continue their education and attend summer camps.

Rev. Cross, being a self-proclaimed numbers guy (“I was a banker before I became a minister,” he said), says 57% of the money comes from outside of these churches, as well as 34% coming from outside of the Ashdown community.

Through the IMPACT event this year, Ashdown United Methodist Church, Richmond United Methodist Church, and Wade’s Chapel United Methodist also used donations from the 2021 event to provide shoes, socks, and free haircuts for local families in need. “We provided around 285 pairs of shoes, and we partner with Central Baptist Church to provide socks. The Ashdown Chamber of Commerce helps to provide free haircuts,” Rev. Cross shared.

“We will continue to pray, do new things, and be open to what needs are in the community,” Rev. Cross said. “We are humbled daily to see what God is doing. God always provides. We will just try not to get in God’s way.”

It’s Time for Camp!

It’s Time for Camp!

Colleen Holt

contributing writer

With Arkansas being called The Natural State, it’s only natural that the Arkansas United Methodist Church would offer opportunities for members of the faith community to spend time outdoors and grow closer to God.

There are four United Methodist camps and retreats in the state: Shoal Creek, Bear Creek, Mount Eagle Retreat Center, and Camp Tanako.

According to online information from Discipleship Ministries, “Christian camps and retreats invite persons and groups to sacred settings typically within the natural world where the creation can speak to their hearts of God. In tandem with the Holy Spirit, [camps] will give guests and participants unparalleled opportunities to focus on the deeper meaning of their lives by inviting them away from normal routine and distraction. These intentional times apart are a catalyst for new possibilities that embody the Church’s mission to nurture Christian discipleship and to engage persons in the transformation of the world through love and justice.”

For those closely tied to camping ministries in Arkansas, it is truly convincing that what is offered at their facilities can help others grow in their walk with God.

Katelyn Hiatt, executive director at Mount Eagle Retreat Center in southwest Stone County, said, “One of my favorite parts about camping and retreat ministries is hearing and experiencing God meeting people right where they are, no matter how they come to this place, whether they are broken, tired, lost, joyful, or at peace. God meets them, and this setting is prime for people letting go of their day-to-day and opening to God meeting them right here.”

Renee Henson, a trustee at Shoal Creek Camp in New Blaine (Logan County), couldn’t agree more. “There are so many special things about camping ministry that it is hard to pinpoint one thing. Being at camp has a tremendous impact on lives – whether you are an elementary school student, a youth or an adult, camp changes lives in ways no other ministry can,” she said.

Those who visit the camps quickly see that relationships are built through fun, study and just being together. “Relationships are built at camp that form life-long friendships and sometimes even marriage,” Renee said. “Playing outside, swimming, arts and crafts, bible stories, campfires, and sleeping in a cabin creates experiences like no other. After playing all day, campers are tired, and without television, phones, or video games to distract your mind, hearts are more open to hearing and experiencing God.”

Kayla Hardage, executive director of Camp Tanako, has special memories of her time spent at the camp during her formative years. “Having grown up coming to camp here, and working on Summer Staff, 15 years ago, I most look forward to the sunrises in the chapel or nightly worship around the fire pit on the lake. I often tell people that you do not have to be Methodist or even Christian to come to camp at Tanako, just come and be present. This place will work its magic!”

Shoal Creek

This summer Shoal Creek will celebrate 63 years of ministry. Located on 22 acres, the camp offers “a place for people of all ages to unplug from the world and build relationships with others and with God.”

“We have eight cabins that sleep 12, a cook’s cabin, a nurse’s cabin, two pavilions, a community hall and kitchen, and a pool,” Renee said. “Over the last several years we have improved camp by adding heat/air to five cabins, building bathrooms to the chow hall, adding a nine-hole disc golf course, a sand volleyball pit, a nine square in the air, and a Gaga pit. These are in addition to traditional camp activities of horseshoes, corn hole, swimming, kickball field, and a giant tree swing.”

Shoal Creek, called “a hidden gem that offers an affordable place for churches and ministries of all sizes,” obtained American Camping Association Accreditation in 2019. “This was a huge undertaking for a small camp that is mostly run by volunteers and a part-time caretaker,” said Renee.

“I am most proud of Shoal Creek because we have been able to keep our ministry as our first priority and I believe that’s why Shoal Creek is still in the camping ministry. We have been able to hire a summer intern the last five summers to help groups with their ministry at camp. This has been a great way to help a young person grow in their faith journey while providing a service to others.”

For more information, call (479) 438-1429 or visit the website at or Facebook page at

Mount Eagle

Mount Eagle is a year-round retreat center that sits atop a mountain surrounded on three sides by the Middle Fork of the Little Red River. Located on about 1,000 acres, offerings include program resources for family and personal renewal and spiritual growth. All facilities are available to churches, small groups, families, and individuals for use when conference events are not taking place. Mount Eagle is also open to other not-for-profit groups and has been known to be the site for beautiful wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Mount Eagle will offer or host spiritual retreats, family getaways, mental and physical renewal trips, and everything in between. “Our goal is to help you have the most amazing retreat for you or your group. We offer miles of hiking trails, several fire pits, a volleyball court, river access, multiple places for personal and group worship, and amazing views of nature,” according to the website at

“Mount Eagle is a very special place for many people, it has been a place where people have been rejuvenated. People have experienced the comforting presence and peace of God. This place is also simply put, a place to rest. You cannot talk to many people without them mentioning the views. You walk onto the porch of our oldest lodge (Kaetzell) you will find yourself in awe of God’s wonder and beauty as you look out over the Little Red River,” said Katelyn.

For more information about Mount Eagle Retreat Center, visit

Camp Tanako

Camp Tanako, located in Hot Springs on Lake Catherine, has been a tradition of the United Methodist Church in Arkansas since 1948. The Mission at Camp Tanako is to welcome children, youth, and adults to a place set apart where they can grow in their faith by experiencing God through nature and time spent in community and respond to the call of the Holy Spirit.

“We are in the forever business, in that relationships built with Christ in this place give peace to folks throughout their life. We take pride in the joy we see in both children and adults, as they enter our space. Adults relive their childhood here and children are given the opportunity to try new experiences. Camp is a place where the pressures of daily life are lifted and each individual person has the opportunity to be present with themselves, something we all need to do more often,” said Kayla.

The summer of 2022 is chock full of activities at Camp Tanako, including a special camp called “Tanako To-go” for a children’s ministry to come to camp for the day. Reservations for this can be made by calling 501-262-2600 or emailing

“We are gearing up for Summer Camp 2022. We have hired 30 summer staff, including a few international students. We will offer nine weeks of programming this summer with day camp, overnight camp, and ‘Tanako To-go.’ Registration is live on for day camp and overnight camp,” Kayla said. “Our curriculum this summer is ‘What’s in a Name’ by InsideOut, an Ecumenical community that writes summer camp curriculum. This summer we will look into how names have great power. Some hold special meanings and some come with expectations. In a lifetime, we may give new meaning to our name or take a new name. Along the journey, we discover who we are and how God equips us to care for others.”

For more information about Camp Tanako, visit their website at or Facebook at

Bear Creek Camp

Bear Creek Camp is a year-round camp and retreat facility located in the St. Francis National Forest, on Bear Creek Lake. Located seven miles from Marianna in eastern Arkansas, Bear Creek offers facilities, services, and programs for a variety of groups such as church, community, professional, civic, and school. This camp has been used for many years with Ozark Mission Project summer camps and has hosted numerous workshops and retreats. For more information, email Glenn Hicks, director, at