Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
In July 2019, after 25 years in Orlando, Fla., Russ and Kim Pullen decided to take a leap of faith and move their family to Western North Carolina to fulfill a dream, to open a mountain top retreat center.
Kim explains. “Everything was new for this suburb girl, moving into a cabin on the side of a mountain, where our closest neighbors were a quarter of a mile away down a dirt road. Our teen daughter, and 23-year-old son with autism, adapted beautifully.”
Russ settled into his job as a fitness trainer at Franklin Health and Fitness Center and Kim continued her online business as a Life Coach. For eight months they tried to get started building their tiny house for their retreat center, but they kept running into roadblocks. Then COVID hit and Russ was released from his job at the fitness center.
Little did they know that God had something else planned for them. Russ immediately reached out to former clients from the fitness center to see if they needed any repairs or maintenance done around their home.
“Russ is the kind of person who doesn’t know a stranger and he met hundreds of people while working at the gym, many of whom were elderly, physically challenged and on a fixed budget,” said Kim.
That quickly turned into a full-time job. While many of them needed services like pressure cleaning, painting, gutter cleaning, trimming trees, and minor carpentry, some couldn’t afford to pay full price because of their own financial hardships, and they refused to let Russ do it for free. So, they bartered for reusable items and sometimes even brownies.
Word spread and within a few months, Russ had already impacted dozens of lives helping the disadvantaged, the elderly, and the handicapped. But he wanted to do more. That’s when he dreamed up the idea of starting “Handy Helping Hands” and opening the 3H Thrift Shop, a charitable organization consisting of a circle of services, whereby individuals share their skills, wisdom, muscle, resaleable items and financial resources to pay it forward for the benefit of the whole town.
So, after weeks of prayer, research, advice, fundraising, marketing, cleaning, painting, receiving truckloads of donations, and forging a bond with a host of volunteers, on Feb. 2, “Handy Helping Hands” and the 3H Thrift Shop opened in Franklin.
“The reception has been incredible,” said Kim. “Resaleable donations from the community pour in daily, and we have several volunteers who’ve taken ownership of the shop and what we are doing as much as we have, offering dignity and purpose through service.”
The Pullens had to rent half the basement below their facility to store everything. They have also been approached by several other organizations in the area to partner with them.
“First Peter 4:10 says, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Our goal is that Handy Helping Hands and the 3H Thrift Shop can help the residents of Franklin to do just that,” said Kim.
One of Russ’s clients is Cindi Brantley, who is 74 years old. Brantley purchased her mobile home at the end of 2019. It was in great need of repairs, pressure washing and paint. In the beginning of 2020 Brantley developed breast cancer and she had to undergo surgery and radiation. She was overwhelmed. A few months later she wound up needing extensive back surgery. Russ was there throughout these trying times, giving her home a beautiful facelift.
“Russ has a servant’s heart,” said Brantley. Throughout her ordeal, Russ brought her flowers, balloons, candy, and hanging baskets, when she was unable to walk. The repairs on her home are ongoing. The next project that Russ will soon begin is to put new insulation in her two sheds. There is also still some indoor repairs that need to be attended to, which he will get to right after he repairs the sheds. Brantley says, “We have some wonderful people in Macon County.”
Both Kim and Russ have taken a path which has led them to offer help for people in the community and beyond. Although Kim helps Russ out at their 3H Thrift Shop, she still maintains her job as a Life Coach at Hope and Healing for Spouses in the wake of adultery or sexual addiction. Their own marriage has taken a long and winding path but they have both returned home to serve God and the community in multifaceted ways.
The 3H Thrift shop is located at 179 Highlands Road in Franklin. Donations can be brought to the store Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.