LEXINGTON, N.C. — Growing up, Brenda Ward always thought she would be a missionary in Africa.

She says that’s still not entirely out of the question at age 47, but for the past several years she has been dedicated to a mission of sorts in Thomasville, where she’s lived for 19 years.

She is the director of The Father’s Storehouse, which serves about 3,000 families in Davidson County, most of whom reside in the Thomasville area, but many in Lexington as well.

The nonprofit operation in the old grocery building in downtown Thomasville exists, Ward says, because of the efforts of about 50 volunteers and donations from individuals, churches and individuals.

“Our rent and utilities are paid 100 percent by donations,” she said, marveling at the generosity of the community that keeps the massive 11,000-square-foot structure in operation. Though the building is large, “we’re bursting at the seams,” Ward describes.

The Father’s Storehouse is a vast menagerie of most everything: foodstuffs, housewares and linens, all donated.

“It’s almost like a big, free Goodwill store. That’s a good comparison,” Ward says.

The nonprofit is in need of school supplies, but needs of the needy can be varied and are never strictly seasonal.

“Over the years, we’ve had mattresses piled to the ceiling one day, and the next day they would be gone,” Ward said.

The downturn of the economy has kept business brisk at the facility, and Ward reasons in her business, that’s not a good thing.

Clients are referred to The Father’s Storehouse by local agencies, such as social services, cancer services, Crisis Ministry, The Salvation Army and churches and county health departments.

“I really did think I would be a missionary in Africa someday, but I realized there is need right here,” Ward said.

Ward, a cancer survivor who is in good health, started this nonprofit mission in 2008 when Thomasville furniture factories began to shutter.

Describing her philanthropic interests, she refers to Matthew 24:50.

“When you read the rest of that chapter in Matthew, you see just how serious the Lord is about providing for the poor. I would never rest at night without doing something to help someone else. It makes you feel you are a whole person.”