Clothe the Naked: A Clothing Ministry at Our Church
For over 15 years I’ve helped maintain the Clothes Closet ministry at our church that followers of this blog or my newspaper column have heard me mention in stories from time to time, such as here and here.
Saturday was our twice yearly “Switchover Day:” restocking the racks of our church clothes closet with the next season’s clothes, a chore that becomes fun when you do it with a group of willing workers. Conversation flows more freely and deeper than even the coffee hour at church allows. Every week, a smaller group of volunteers hangs fresh clothing on the racks, but it is a bigger operation to remove all of the prior season’s clothes, and bring out clothes for the coming weather. (And there are just two seasons in Virginia when it comes to clothing, right? Warm weather clothing and colder weather clothing.)
Most of us are more than busy with a long list of to-do’s at home, so volunteering your labor at a food pantry or free clinic or clothes closet or Habitat build is something you choose to do because you believe in the community that is built as you give of your time. I so enjoyed the work on Saturday for some of these reasons:
–A beautiful mother and children whose family immigrated from Iraq have helped us for several years in this biannual activity, and we have enjoyed learning to know her and her family, and appreciating Basima’s growing language skills.–Over the morning, Lana, (left) who was at first either sleepy or worried about leaving her mommy out of her sight, gradually warmed up and began casting shy smiles my way.–It is a time to catch up with each other about summer highlights, grandchildren, new jobs for children, illnesses and other trials.
There are suitable jobs for all. Our oldest helper, Jim, helps by making tags for the clothing that we remove from racks and take to Mercy House’s Used Clothing Store.
Children have frequently helped through the years. Here is a shot of my daughter Tanya, middle, and Kevin, far left, helping out William Ramkey at the Closet, a retired Presbyterian minister. The Closet has been in several locations around town, and at that point was housed at Community Mennonite Church.
And what crew of workers is not spurred on by the promise of a pizza lunch!
It is a simple, straightforward operation, this clothing closet. We take in clothing donated by the church, other churches, community, and often from many of the clients. And we give it away, absolutely free. That is the best part, which sometimes amazes new clients. The founding pastor of this congregation, Don, now pastor emeritus and a member of the group which keeps the Clothes Closet going, says giving out free clothes reminds him of God’s grace and the Bible passage in Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
It is also a literal living out of the powerful parable told by Jesus himself in Matthew 25:36: “I was naked and you gave me clothing.”
Our crew on Saturday morning “Switchover Day”:
Front row: Janet, our awesome mission coordinator; Mustafa; mother Basima with daughters Lana and Danella; Patti, Karla.
Back row: Fred, Cheryl, John, Jim, Bill, Sue and her son home for a visit, Mark. Also missing from this photo, Elaine and her adult granddaughter.
What do you enjoy about volunteering or giving of your time in the community?
Here’s the front of our church building, Trinity Presbyterian, a historic pre-civil war home. To get to the Clothes Closet, you drive around to the back parking lot. Anyone is welcome, regardless of income: college students, friends, family. We are able to accept donations of clothing only on Wednesday mornings from 9-11 a.m.
The Closet is open for clients Wednesday evenings 6:30-7:30 p.m., and the first Saturday of each month from 10-11 a.m. Two other churches help us staff the Clothes Closet for which we are very grateful: Muhlehburg Lutheran and Harrisonburg Baptist Youth Group.