Jenn Bradshaw - Ministry Moment at SGUMC
I began helping Sara with the Caring Clothes Closet before it had a name. At that time, we were operating out of her garage. It has been amazing to watch it grow from being an off shoot of a possible children’s clothing consignment business all the way to a ministry here at Shady Grove! Our move from Sara’s garage, to a dark lawn mower shed, to the beautiful building with the adorable porch next to Fellowship Hall is a physical reminder of how much we have grown and how much good we are doing.
It is that physical reminder that drew me into volunteering at the Caring Clothes Closet. You see, prior to my husband and I having children and my decision to stay home with them, I worked for almost 10 years in the community mental health field. I provided therapy services for children and their families who had no insurance or were on Medicaid. They were among the most vulnerable in our society.
All of my clients were involved with Child Protective Services in some way. Some were in residential care, some in foster care, some were working on reunification plans with their biological families. The work was very rewarding, but also very exhausting. It was not a sprint, but a marathon, so to speak. Day to day, it was hard to know if what we were doing was actually helping, especially because these families were dealing with broader systemic issues that were beyond anyone’s control. The phrase “pushing up against a big brick wall” often came to mind. Hope and prayer were mainstays of my working days.
A few years ago, when our youngest son began pre-school two mornings a week, I started to see that little glimmer at the end of the “baby tunnel”. I also began to get an itch to start doing something besides being “just mommy”. Don’t get me wrong, I love being “mommy”, but I also craved to fill some other role. And I felt a strong desire to start putting something back into this community where we now lived.
I was pondering this “role expansion” idea one morning when I was in the middle of a boot camp style exercise class. I think I was trying to keep my mind off of the burning feeling the lactic acid was causing in all of my major muscle groups. Sara was there with me- she can vouch for the pain! Well, God winked at me that day. After class, and when we had caught our breath, Sara started telling me about her idea to provide gently used clothing to the teens and children in care at United Methodist Family Services. I told her to count me in!
It doesn’t seem like much when you are sorting the clothes or organizing racks or hauling the unusable items out to recycling. It’s hard sometimes to feel like you are helping anyone when we are just doing “that stuff”. But then, you meet with the clients at the Caring Clothes Closet. When you help a woman from a local domestic violence shelter find a suit for her interview next week, you know your small works are actually helping. By the way, she got the job!
When you help a mother who lost everything in a house fire two weeks before Christmas find a dress for her daughter’s holiday concert at school, you know you are helping. The mom told me her daughter felt like a princess that night.
When you are able to find a coat for a husband who lost his job six months ago and “didn’t want to spend the money on a coat for himself”, you know you are helping. He told me he was very warm in that coat playing in the snow with his kids a couple weeks ago. So, that is what volunteering at the Caring Clothes Closet has meant to me. It’s a reminder that all the little things that seem insignificant today are in fact seeds that, with time, will grow into a beautiful garden. It’s a reminder that it’s not the speed, but the distance you cover that can make the real difference. I invite you to help us cultivate this garden! There are several ways you can help and you can do it on your own time or on ours - we are very flexible!
Jody Floegel - Ministry Moment, Bags 4 Kids at SGUMC
There were two sisters being placed in foster care for the first time. They were scared and upset. The older sister was refusing to go with her new foster parents. The social worker helping the girls that evening took the girls back to her office where there was a supply of bright green comfort bags provided by the Bags 4 Kids program. The social worker asked the older sister to come and pick out a bag for herself and for her little sister. Once the older sister chose two bright green cinch bags each filled with goodies…a stuffed animal popping out of the front pocket, the older sister was able to calm down and go home with her foster parents. This is a true story that was shared with us by a social worker to let us know the difference BFK is making in the lives of foster children. For those of you who are not familiar with the BFK program, it provides “HOPE” to foster children by giving them comfort bags when they transition into the foster care system. If clothes are needed, the kids receive clothes from the CCC in larger duffle bags. Both the small comfort bags and the larger duffle bags contain comfort items, self-care items, activities and a card made by a child In one of our Community Service Programs. Cards that say things like, “You are loved,” or “You are so much stronger than you think.” When you or your children support the BFK program, YOU are helping foster children. Thank you to everyone, adults and children at Shady Grove UMC, who have helped with a BFK project. Your support means everything to us.