Anyone visiting the campus of Cumberland University Thursday might have been surprised to see a red double-decker bus. Even more surprising, the bus turned out to be a mobile thrift store filled with students looking for bargains.
The bus is part of the Show Hope project, a non-profit organization that works to meet the most pressing needs of orphans in distress by providing homes for waiting children through adoption-aid grants, and by providing life-saving medical care for orphans with special needs. The local chapter of the organization is based in Franklin.
"It's an effort to invite college students to be involved in orphan care," said Chris Wheeler, Show Hope's director of student initiatives. "College students can donate clothes, shop and, at the same time, make a difference. They are able to engage with the orphan crisis while doing something they already love to do - thrift store shopping."
He said the bus travels from college to college, collecting donated clothes and then selling them there or at the bus' next destination while spreading awareness about the needs of orphans and raising money for orphan care.
Wheeler said organizers, himself among them, realized early on that while college students may not have a lot of money, they do have stuff.
Show Hope mobilized students to use their stuff to help orphans, by starting the rolling thrift store from which the proceeds would benefit orphan care and adoption advocacy efforts. Students can donate their stuff or simply shop.
Angela Cortes was busy helping customers outside the bus.
"We donate all the proceeds from the sale to orphans," she said.
Savvy shoppers were on the hunt for good deals, not only on the bus, but at several booths around the bus.
CU students Ben Turner and Daniel McFadden were busy searching the $5 booth for new-to-them clothes.
"I'm trying to find something in my size," Turner said as he dug in the bin.
"I'm getting some good bargains," said Rocio Mason, of Lebanon, while looking through the selection on the bottom floor of the bus.
Libby O'Guin, director of Student Life at CU, was instrumental in bringing the bus to campus.
"I have two or three campus service opportunities a month," she said. "We've been preparing for a while by having students clean out their closets and donate."
She said CU would also have out bins periodically to encourage more donations even after the bus has rolled on to another college.
Wheeler said the program gives students a way to contribute while they are still in school.
"College students are part of the solution to end the orphan crisis," Wheeler said.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or email@example.com