Lebanonians who are bargain hunters, vintage clothing lovers, seekers of the old, unusual and odd, or just plain thrifty, probably know Jubilee Ministries, the old industrial building at 12th and Walnut Streets.
They may have dropped off unwanted items at the store’s South 12th Street loading dock or picked up the latest Fishwrapper on the way out.
It would be easy to look at Jubilee as just another used clothing and furniture store that raises money for some vague “good cause.” It does, but Jubilee’s mission is, and always has been, narrower.
“We exist to serve those affected by incarceration by being ambassadors of life change through the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Jared Stoltzfus, Jubilee’s Chief Operating Officer, in a recent interview at the building that once housed sewing factories and an automobile maker.
“We have 16 chaplains in 10 facilities, county and state.” Lebanon County’s prison is one. In addition to those currently in jail, “we also have an aftercare program for released prisoners,” Stoltzfus said.
Jubilee’s prison ministry is 80% funded through sale of donated goods at its stores. The remainder comes from churches and cash contributions. Stoltzfus estimates that Jubilee raises about $1,000,000 a year, before expenses, to support its to prison programs.
Jubilee Ministries, a non-profit corporation overseen by the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, has been in Lebanon since the 1970s, and at the current location since 2000. There are now four more Jubilee stores in Myerstown, Annville, Palmyra, and Manheim.
Stoltzfus said that the Lebanon building has recently undergone some interior and exterior “face lifting.”
“We did landscaping and a new sign outside, and the exterior work carried over to inside.”
“We did new carpeting, painting, added some plants and decoration in the store area, and reorganized some merchandise displays.” He describes the recent work as “just freshening up the store and giving the best shopping experience possible.”
One prominent change to the second floor, which features furniture, electronics, and housewares, is a sit down library. The store has always had a large selection of used books, and now readers can browse a little more comfortably.
Jubilee started as a Mennonite youth group in the early 1970s, Stoltzfus said. “They got the idea to go into the Lebanon County jail, and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.”