Woman and children standing in front of newly purchased school bus.

Children enjoy Park’s Edge Preschool’s new bus, purchased through the CHHSM Store.

A savings of $1,000 is a big deal, especially for a small daycare center.

When Park’s Edge Preschool, an outreach program of Emanuel Church, UCC, in Hales Corner, Wis., decided it was costing too much money to maintain its 10-year-old bus, Gene Detert, the school’s board president, knew where to go for advice. He contacted CHHSM Vice President Michael J. Readinger to find out if the CHHSM Store could help the school get a good price on a new bus.

The CHHSM Store is a group purchasing organization (GPO) which helps member ministries buy supplies, food, equipment and services, often for better prices than they could get on their own. Through the store, ministries can buy such things as vehicles, paint, furniture, human resource services, physical therapy and medical supplies.

The store partners with Care Purchasing Services in Delray Beach, Fla., which in turn connects members with more than 120 vendors across the country. The arrangement has been in place since March 2006.

Through the CHHSM Store, Park’s Edge purchased a brand new bus from Midwest Transit Equipment in Kankakee, Ill. The price was $1,000 less than the school would have otherwise paid.

Readinger notes that all CHHSM ministries have automatic access to the CHHSM Store.

“Most GPOs have membership fees and require that you purchase a certain percentage of what you buy from their vendors,” he says. “Ours has neither requirement. Except for certain commodities, the rate our members will pay for an item or service typically will not change over the course of a year.”

Readinger points out that the store can act as go-between for a CHHSM ministry and a vendor who doesn’t initially offer the item the ministry needs.

For example, even though a local Wal-Mart was donating diapers from damaged packages to Neighborhood Houses, a family services ministry in St. Louis, Mo., the agency spent time and gas money collecting the diapers each week.

“The vendor we contacted didn’t initially carry diapers for children,” Readinger says. “But it went out and secured them in big enough quantities to save Neighborhood Houses a lot of money.”

How much money? Buying through the CHHSM Store allowed the ministry to stretch its nine-month diaper budget to last more than 2 1/2 years, says Denise Carter, director of early childhood education for Neighborhood Houses. Only now is the program running low on the diapers it purchased in 2010, and Carter says that the organization will likely go back to the CHHSM Store for more.

When The Whitlock, a senior community in Bremen, Ind., needed new flooring, its leaders wanted to be good stewards of their resources so they solicited three quotes for materials, says Executive Director Karen Wills.

“Our local contractor came in at $2.22 a square for commercial-grade carpet squares,” Wills says. “Our CHHSM Store came in at 61 cents a square!”

The carpet has been installed and Wills says Whitlock leaders “like it so much that we will be using this same carpet when we renovate our resident apartments.”

Readinger says members sometimes use a quote from the store to negotiate a better price with a local vendor.

If the CHHSM Store couldn’t beat another vendor’s price, says Wills, “we simply chose to do business where we could save money. There were no hard feelings.”

Whether or not their ministries make purchases through the store, employees and board members at CHHSM agencies can use it to get individual discounts at companies such as Avis, Home Depot, General Electric, Office Max and Verizon.

Readinger hopes more CHHSM ministries will take advantage of the store to get free quotes on items and services.

“The more CHHSM people use it, the better the discounts,” he says.

Adds Wills, “The time involved in comparing prices is really nominal.”

There are times when purchases made through the store can have both tangible and intangible benefits. Take Park’s Edge Preschool, for example.

Last December, driver Deanna Rasberry proudly steered the school’s gleaming yellow, air-conditioned, 29-passenger bus home. A few days later, parents and children gathered for an outdoor celebration on a midwinter afternoon. Emanuel Church Pastor Bill Utke gave the new vehicle a special blessing. Then the children started singing, what else, “The wheels on the bus go round and round.”