Boaz and Ruth, Inc. (B&R) is a faith-based nonprofit strategically located in the heart of the impoverished and crime-ridden North District of Richmond, VA. Anchored by a 7500-square-foot used furniture store/training center and related business training ventures, Boaz & Ruth:
- Provides life/work skills and re-entry assistance for released prisoners
- Fosters commercial revitalization for the troubled community of Highland Park
- Bridges culturally and economically disparate communities within the Richmond metropolitan area
LINK: Mission Strategies
A mighty river never comes into existence by itself, but is the result of many streams all coming together into one strong body. So it is with Boaz and Ruth. While Martha Rollins was building Martha’s Mixture, Rosa Jiggets was selling food out of a bus and praying. Charlie Summers was developing his experience in North Carolina, Ellen Robertson was becoming politically active and Lloyd Price was following God’s call to return to Highland Park. Clarence and Veronica were living their lives, not knowing that they were waiting for Boaz and Ruth, and the Courageous Customer was developing the means and resources that would be needed. All came together in good time – in God’s time. Boaz and Ruth is not the story of any one person – it’s the story of many people coming together out of their faith and loving concern for people in their city.
Building the Dream: Beginning with the restoration of a neglected building in a severely depressed neighborhood, Boaz & Ruth is restoring struggling individuals to productive lives, creating jobs, and generating an ever-widening “force field” of hope for a troubled community.
The concept for this intertwined business venture and social mission began with long-time Richmond antiques dealer, Martha Rollins (owner of Martha’s Mixture, Ltd., repeatedly voted “Richmond’s Best Antique Store”), who daily saw the tremendous resources of the wealthy coming in the front door of her shop and the severe need of the poor and often jobless folks living in the neighborhood behind the shop. She began to ask, “How can these resources and needs be connected? What if surplus goods could be donated to provide inventory for a store that would employ and train those needing a second chance? Would not both the giver and the receiver benefit? Would not the appeal of potential bargains draw shoppers from throughout the city and thus assist both in economic development and cross-cultural connections?” Those questions would lead to the founding of Boaz & Ruth.
Sharing the Dream: In late 2001, Martha shared her vision with a women’s roundtable to which she belonged. The dream grew and became a plan. One of the women, Ellen Robertson, said she had an empty building in the Highland Park neighborhood, an old firehouse that could be used to house the envisioned store. But Martha was concerned that customers would be too afraid to come to this economically depressed, crime-ridden neighborhood in north Richmond. Shortly thereafter, a Martha’s Mixture customer called, offering to donate a houseful of valuable designer furniture to the cause, if storage space could be found. Temporarily setting aside her concerns, Martha got permission to store the furniture in the old firehouse.
Buying a used truck and driving around the neighborhood, Martha began to see Highland Park through God’s eyes. Soon, rather than being an uncomfortable area to be avoided, it became a place with great unrecognized gifts and resources just waiting to be released. Martha became known as the “white lady in the grey van.” That’s how she came across Clarence and Veronica, two jobless folks needing a second chance. They helped fill the firehouse with the donated furniture, and a short time later became the program’s first trainees.
The Dream Becomes Real: In the summer of 2002, a customer of Martha’s Mixture - the "Courageous Customer" put up $150,000 in a challenge grant to get Boaz & Ruth started. It was matched by First Presbyterian Church. By October, an old hardware store was purchased and preparations began for the initial training programs.
Charlie Summers (Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Richmond) shared from his experiences doing similar work in North Carolina, counseling Martha that her dream would not succeed without local leadership from the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Rosa Jiggets had been praying for something to happen in Highland Park. One day while driving down the street she saw the “white lady in the grey van” she had been hearing about. The women began to talk, and Highland Park hasn’t been the same since. Rosa began taking Martha (her “Soul Sister”) around Highland Park, opening doors that would probably have remained closed to her before.
Lloyd Price entered the B&R picture in August 2002 when he too met the white lady in the grey van, and his dream of a holistic transformation of the Highland Park community joined with Martha's. Together they open the doors of Boaz & Ruth in December 2002.
And on it goes. Today (mid-2006), the program is growing in every way imaginable. The work is hard and there are no easy answers, but the success stories far outweigh the struggles. People’s lives are being changed, a community is being transformed and a city is beginning to come together. More streams are being formed out of which even mightier rivers will grow, bringing living water to thirsty people.