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Jay Starkey: Servicing the community one pair of shoes, one donation at a time

In the Image is a non-profit on the southwest side of Grand Rapids that serves the needy by donating essentials for life, as well as brand new shoes to kids.
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Jay Starkey reaches out to the community one donation and one pair of shoes at a time.

Starkey is executive director of In the Image, a non-profit organization on Grand Rapids southwest side. In the Image is a faith-based non-profit that turns revenue from clothing recycling into brand new pairs of shoes for students and children in Grand Rapids in need. According to its mission, In the Image "links gently used clothing, housewares, furniture and appliances with families in need," and does so while maintaining dignity, choice and a community spirit.

“There is [nothing] like In the Image,” Starkey said. He says that competitive advantage free shoes, clothes, appliances, and delivery set them apart.

Starkey can relate to the folks that he services at In the Image.  Growing up Starkey and his sister were homeless. He knows first-hand how it feels to have to wear a worn out pair of shoes that are so bad that kids would made fun of him. He knows what it is like to lose everything, because he had a house fire and lost everything due to that fire.

Starkey wants all children to have a new pair of shoes, so that no child has to feel what he felt as a child or no family to have to go without clothing or furniture if there is a need.

Starkey is a husband and father of two children, and he came to work for In the Image just over three years ago. This native of Grand Rapids and graduate of Calvin College was a business major and worked in management and corporate management, with no background in non-profit.  With the support of his wife who thought that he needed to do something different from the corporate business environment Starkey started a new path being hands on and being a part of the community of people that he serves—the homeless and in need.

In the Image's main goal is serving the needy; they cite Matthew 25:40, which reads from the King James Version of the Bible: “And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”

“Even though we are a religious-based organization we here at In the Image will continue to serve all people,” Starkey said. He did say that one of their goals is to provide a Bible study in the future.

Another goal for In the Image is to expand department and programs within the facility. In the Image is home to a full-time staff of nine and three part-time employees including Starkey and other employees who are sober from drugs and alcohol. He also oversees more than 2,000 volunteers through community service, the JET program and AARP.

When asked what he envisions for the future of In the Image Starkey replied that he'd like to see more volunteers from the senior population. He feels that they are an untapped resource that is underutilized. Another thing he'd like to see is for more corporations to partner with them for the show program because all shoes are paid for out of pocket.

"There is no revenue stream and we rely on our recycling of unused clothing," Starkey said.

In the Image needs nearly $40,000 to sustain and expand their shoe program, as well as to reach other areas for families who need clothing and furniture.

For now, though, Starkey is happy to see each child that walks out of In the Image with a new, comfortable pair of shoes.

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