40 years of kindness

Posted 4/27/23

Small towns need support mechanisms, those organizations which fill real needs among the residents. Some of these organizations have long historical roots. Others come into fruition to fill a passing …

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40 years of kindness


Small towns need support mechanisms, those organizations which fill real needs among the residents. Some of these organizations have long historical roots. Others come into fruition to fill a passing need and are packed-up when the specific circumstances they served change. 

Investigating long-standing social organizations can reveal much about the community and the people who call it home. 

One of those Mineola service organizations, Kindness Kottage, celebrates 40 years of community service this year. A glimpse at that history offers some reassuring qualities about Mineola. 

Like other social initiatives, Kindness Kottage was launched out of the basement of the, then, First United Methodist Church. As B.J. Gold, director of Kindness Kottage, commented, “That church has always been about doing works in a good way.”

The initiative was launched by two ladies, Carol Harder and Yvonne Lowden. The two recognized that transient families passing through Mineola often required some basic needs. 

In 1983, they stocked a storage closet with canned goods, diapers and warm clothes. Kindness Kottage was up and running. From a closet to a dedicated room lined with shelving, support was dispensed for years by volunteers from that church basement.  

The year 1987 was a big one for the group. Kindness Kottage had received designation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The original board members were Dixie Fitzgerald, Jim Loyd, Coulter Templeton and Odessa Yeager. 

And the organization was on the move. In short order, Kindness Kottage relocated first to the basement of the old post office, then to the storefront at 105 N. Johnson Street, and finally a couple of doors down the block at 119 N. Johnson. 

Many people had a hand in finding the Kottage its home. The move to the old post office was facilitated by the United Way of Mineola (now the Mineola Community Chest). The Kottage settled at 119 N. Johnson in what was the old Sears building. The Meredith Foundation, which had purchased that building, played a large role in that move.

From the middle of downtown, Kindness Kottage dispensed its support for 24 years. It had become a part of Mineola.

Mickie Kugler was named the first director of the Kottage in 1996.

Gold noted, “She was perfect for the position – an extremely loving person.” Kugler retired in 2013 and Cynthia French took over the directorship.

Upon the untimely passing of French, acting manager Tina Davis took the reins and served for two years. She retired in 2017 after 23 years of service with the Kottage. Gold was named the fourth director in 2017.

The year 2017 was a landmark for the enterprise. The big change, moving to its present location on East Highway 80 in the old Robinson Furniture Store, began with a dream.

As the story goes, then board member Don Clemon had a detailed dream about the future of the Kottage. He related that to the board, and it began the laborious undertaking of making the move. 

“We simply could not have done it without the Meredith Foundation,” Gold noted. “It was a one-time grant from the foundation which allowed us to purchase this building.”

Gold had come to the Kottage after being approached by Clemon. A retired nurse in cardio-pulmonary care, she and her husband Tim had relocated to Mineola from Odessa. The draw was – in addition to the trees – the bass fishing at Lake Fork.

At the time that Clemon approached her regarding the Kottage, she was a committed volunteer in local animal rescue.

“I saw God’s purpose in my life; He wanted me to move back into caring for people,” she said.

Gold leads a team of 13 volunteers and six employees – three full-time and three part-time. The resale shop and food pantry has flourished at its new location and has become a bit of a landmark which sets Mineola apart from the other communities along Highway 80. 

It is a special place. 

The first thing one notices when entering the Kottage is the cleanliness. Gold related, “We try to stress being retail, not just resale.” 

It shows. From cleanliness and presentation of the goods, to praise music and placards suspended from the ceiling with biblical quotes, the environment is welcoming and reassuring. 

The showroom is large enough to display a huge amount of goods without the clientele feeling crowded or rushed. It is sparsely but tastefully decorated. 

Gold explained that the shop is the main driver of the whole operation. It provides funds to the food pantry and the utility assistance program.  It also brings in the customers. Many of those customers, Gold confided, become donors as well. 

That cleanliness standard is set in the laundry along the back exterior wall of the building. There one finds Maria Romero, busily ensuring that each item going to the floor is in as clean a condition as possible. Gold described her as a bit of a magician when it comes to restoring clothing to a near-new state.   

Walking west from the laundry one will likely see manager Chelsea Rogers filling a food pantry order. The pantry, which offers a box of food staples to families every 30 days, averages about 140 families per month. That number represents nearly 400 individuals.

The food pantry is replenished twice a month. The staff draws the foodstuffs from the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler, the King’s Storehouse, and Walmart. Four large commercial freezers keep a variety of meats ready for distribution. The freezers were purchased with a grant from the Wood County Electric Co-op.

Between the laundry and food pantry at the back of the building and the showroom in the front are a couple of staging areas, where goods are prepared for display and topical displays stored. There is also a collection area for shoes which are further donated to Charity Shoes and Clothing of Dallas. 

Gold described the future of Kindness Kottage as one of continued improvement and, hopefully, expansion.

“We think we can improve the food pantry pick-up procedure by making some changes to the drive and an expansion off the back of the building,” offered Gold. 

When asked about the mission of the Kottage, Gold asserted that when she started as director, most people were concerned about food security. Now, there is equal concern regarding the ability to pay for basic electricity, water and gas.       

Regardless of what the future holds, many families will continue to be served through Kindness Kottage. They will secure that assistance in an environment of understanding and dignity. 

Perhaps the most telling comment during the visit was from Manager Chelsea Rogers, who remarked, “I just love our mission…and it is amazing how appreciative people can be for a little assistance.”