Believers at a small Columbus church wear their heart on their sleeves. And pants. And dresses. And jackets.
And any other piece of clothing they can.
Leaders at the cozy Sixth Street General Baptist, with a weekly service attendance of about 45 people, are committed to big outreach in the form of two clothing drives per year — one in the spring and one in the fall. Their effort help helps fill a void after the local, large Faith Victory Church Clothes Closet closed shortly after its founder, Jan Grassi, died in 2016, and then a new church location left no space for the outreach.
The closet helped a wide range of people for more than 13 years.
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Sixth Street General Baptist member Judy Lee and others already have begun collecting items for their next clothes giveaway April 21 at the church, 2102 Sixth St.
“We really need a lot of children’s clothes because we’re short on that,” Lee said, adding that the event will feature clothes and shoes for all seasons and, hopefully, in all sizes, though storage space is somewhat limited.
She mentioned that she regularly is surprised when phone callers or visitors ask what documentation they need to show need and to select and take clothes. The answer: If people say they have a need, then church members trust such is the case.
Lee guesses that the giveaway attendance has grown by about 10 to 15 percent since the Clothes Closet had to close. But, she said the reason for the events is simple and basic: She believes the local need for such help has increased in recent years. The church began coordinating the giveaways about five years after they heard local people needed decent clothes.
“And, based on Scripture, we are to reach out to people along the highways and byways to help them,” she said. “This is just a goodwill gesture for us.”
The events generally feature a lot of jeans and shirts. But sometimes they have included more specialized clothing, such as men’s suits.
Columbus resident Stacey Stillinger, who works at Developmental Services Inc. with Lee, has been donating apparel for the church’s clothes drives for about a year. She also has persuaded her daughter, sister and mom to donate.
“I just love to help people,” Stillinger said. “If we have clothes that we don’t need, then obviously I want to give them to someone who can use them. This is very convenient, so it’s an easy way to help other people. I think the giveaway is awesome.”
Stillinger added that the events have helped her become less selfish, as she put it, even about sometimes sentimental items such as blankets. But now she aims for a warmth on the inside.
“I really love blankets. But I finally thought, ‘You know what? There are people who really need the blankets that I don’t actually need,’” Stillinger said.
When Lee sees so many donors such as Stillinger, she knows people still care about the needy.
“It makes me realize that people definitely still have a heart, and they are very unselfish,” Lee said. “And that humbles me.”
To donate clothes for Sixth Street General Baptist Church’s spring giveaway from 9 a.m. to noon April 21, call organizer Judy Lee at 812-371-0190.
All sizes and all types of clothes, especially children’s are needed. Blankets also will be accepted.