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Women reach out to serve people with quilts, kits and clothing

by Brenda Velasco

The resourcefulness of a local congregation providing resources for people in need locally and globally is exemplified by Central Lutheran Church in Spokane.

It offers ministry opportunities that reach out to both the local community and world relief programs. Two of these, the Christian Action Committee and the Clothes Closet have been active for years and are run by volunteers who dedicate time to make the ministries successful.

Mary Robinson and Kay Brandenburg
Mary Robinson and Kay Brandenburg

Responding to a call to serve, Mary Robinson, a member of Central Lutheran, became chair of the Christian Action Committee when she retired from teaching high school. 

As part of the ministry, she works with other members to create quilts, health kits and school kits, which are sent to Lutheran World Relief and shipped to people in need around the world.

“I started thinking about children in other parts of the world who have nothing,” said Mary, who has done this ministry for 12 years.  “When they receive a school kits it may be the only possession they have.  It’s a big deal to them.  It’s hard to find school supplies in some countries.”

This year, the church did 75 school kits, a church record. School kits include supplies like pencils, notebooks, paper, and erasers. The health kits include items like hand towels, soap and toothbrushes, while the homemade quilts will have many uses.  Many women at the church also make bright-colored quilted tote bags to hold the items.  These can then be used as school bags for the children.

The Christian Action Committee receives money for kit items from Thrivent Financial grants and members go to local stores to purchase what they need.

“I wanted to give to the community and this seemed like the perfect thing for me to do,” she said.  “I believe in education and all that it offers. This was a good way to help kids.”

During a trip to Panama a few years ago, Mary was moved by the poverty she saw.

“It was eye opening to see people who had lost everything.  I had the opportunity to talk to them, and it was powerful to hear their stories,” she said.

Her passion to help people in other parts of the world inspired her to do something in Spokane.

“I wanted to find a place to volunteer, to take time to do something for another person,” said Mary, adding that, although there is much need in Spokane, she wants to reach out wider.

“We are a part of this world and need to address issues in other parts of the world, especially when it involves children,” she said.

“We have so much here, and it feels good to give back,” she said. “A towel, wash cloth or soap may seem like nothing to us, but it means a lot for people who have nothing.  It becomes something that is their own. We tend to take things for granted.”

Since taking on this ministry, Mary said that response from the congregation has been positive.

“There are many ways we can be involved,” Mary said.  “When I post my list to collect items, we always fill the baskets.  The church is reliable. Someone always makes it happen.”

Once the items are collected from the congregation, a call is put out to help make the tote bags or create the quilts. 

“If we need 500 blankets, we will do it, no matter of the time needed. We depend on each other and it’s wonderful to see everyone so passionate about helping.” 

Lutheran World Relief sends yearly reports, letting the church know how the items are used.

“It’s good to know the kits go directly to the people they are intended for,” she said.

Mary said the other ministries at Central Lutheran support each other when there is a need:  “If the Clothes Closet needs something, we help them.  If we need help, they help us.  We tell each other about our needs.”

The Clothes Closet, which serves men and women, celebrated its 20th anniversary at the end of November and continues to be a place where people with needs can come to find clothing or personal hygiene products.

Kay Brandenburg, who has volunteered at the Clothes Closet for seven years, said three-fourths of the people who use it are men.

“Many are homeless or have limited income,” she said. “We also give them resource guides to help them find things like furniture for their apartments.”

Several years ago, Kay learned about the Clothes Closet and asked to visit. That led her to volunteer.

“Many men come from rehab centers.  Women and families also come,” she said.

“They each have a story, and I would never have been in contact with them if it hadn’t been for this ministry,” Kay pointed out.

The Clothes Closet receives donations from the church community. On occasion, they receive money to buy clothes and toiletries. It operates out of the basement of Central Lutheran and is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons.

“The people find out about us by word of mouth, agencies or media,” Kay said. “Some people are simply looking for a decent outfit to wear, while others have nothing. We bring them down two people at a time and show them what we have.”

Some people do come back on a consistent basis, but Kay said that most only come once or twice and then move on.

“I love working with the people,” she said. “Listening to what they’ve been through is heartbreaking.  So many are homeless and seek support.”

On average about 35 people come during the two hours they are open.  The most they have had has been 47.

Time is put into preparing the space.  Clothing is sorted as it comes in and put on racks.

“The people who use our services wait in the foyer until we call them down to take a look.” Kay said. “They can try the clothes on and then they leave with what they need.”

Once in a while, they have small appliances to give out.  “One family simply needed a baking pan. It can be that basic,” Kay said.  “We have the resources here at Clothes Closet to help them.  It’s about giving back in whatever way we can.”

 

For information, call 624-9233.

 

Copyright © December 2009 - The Fig Tree