They say that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. It also can be another person’s meal ticket. Steve and Andrea Kohlman are not above sifting through “junk” for furniture that can be repurposed and sold in order to feed hungry children in Haiti. The couple’s deep passion for helping that country came after what Andrea described as a series of life-changing mission trips to the poverty-stricken island before and after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
A 31-year-old nursing care technician at University of Kentucky’s Chandler Medical Center and mother of two young daughters, Andrea was deeply affected, especially by the needs of the nutrition program sponsored by Waves of Mercy (a Haiti-based mission organization run by Larry and Diana Owen of Versailles, Ky., who also founded Northwest Haiti Christian Mission). In her numerous visits to Haiti to volunteer, she witnessed Haitian women forced to feed their malnourished children “mud cookies” to stave off hunger until their next meal could be found. Waves of Mercy (www.mercysaves.org) is undergoing a budget shortfall after eight elder members of their support team passed away last year.
“My heart was just so heavy about the thought of turning a sweet one away and being hungry,” Andrea recalled. “I came home and told Steve that we don’t have the money to give out of our pockets, but let’s just think about how God has gifted us so we can use that to make money to give, and then maybe help that deficit that they have.”
Earlier this year Repurposed Soul was born, and the Nicholasville residents decided to find unwanted furniture, revitalize it and sell it at bargain prices with all of the proceeds benefiting Waves of Mercy. Steve had some experience in decorating and repurposing through his work at Southland Christian Church, and knew they had a broad network of potential customers through the church and Andrea’s time in nursing school and working at UK.
“My favorite finds are the treasures you can find in someone else’s trash,” said Steve, 34. “Believe it or not there are some really good things you can find if you’re willing to go to those places.”
He said the couple makes many thrift store visits and sometimes finds pieces at yard sales and estate sales.
“And then as people begin to find out what we’re doing and that we’re raising money for Haiti, a lot of people have offered to give things to us,” he said.
Steve was excited about one of his recent finds: a “gorgeous dresser at Goodwill that was already sanded and ready to go.” The couple cleaned it up, stained it and sold it for a $125 profit for Waves of Mercy.
“It’s neat now knowing that when something sells, 100 percent of that profit is going to go to feed orphans and starving children,” he said. “That’s what keeps me motivated.”