Coats Can Prevent Crime
On Nov 2, the United Methodist Women of the Scenic South met for our Annual Meeting at the Bethlehem Center in Chattanooga, TN. Every time the United Methodist Women meet, we like to do some type of mission project or giving. Since we were meeting at the Beth, we wanted to find out how we could bless the community there.
We already knew that the Bethlehem Center provided after-school
programs, leadership programs, a food pantry, and community functions for the
community of Alton Park. We knew that the staff were invested in the lives in
the community they served. What we learned though is the staff members had
begun to stash extra clothing in every spare nook & cranny of the center
after realizing one of the biggest needs for the young people in Alton Park
were basic clothing, especially outerwear. This practice has gone on so long
that they had completely run out of spaces to store things and everything was
so disorganized that it was difficult to find the correct sizes needed. In order to solve this problem, they found a closet they could repurpose to start a clothing closet at the Bethlehem Center.
On my morning drive to work, I see kids standing at the bus stop in wintertime with little or no coat at all, and it breaks my heart. But this is more than keeping kids warm. By providing coats & shoes to these young people, it is also cutting off a means of gang recruitment. Gang leaders see these kids in need and see an easy mark. They promise new shoes or a new coat if they would do something for them first. This can lead to a lifetime of crime and violence.
The clothing closet at the Bethlehem Center accepts all sizes of clothing & shoes. Gently used and new items are accepted; however, socks & underwear are only accepted new, in package. Right the highest need is for winter wear, shoes, and socks. Since the closet is still in the process of being organized, you can also donate closet hardware and storage bins. We focused on socks, coats, & shoes as our hands-on giving project that day, but I want to do more. I want to get more people involved.
I want to challenge you, my St John family. Go through your closets and purge all the winter items your family won’t wear this year. Pull out those extra sneakers that never fit you quite right and are just sitting in your closet. If your kids are like mine, you might even find clothing in your closets that haven’t even been worn because your kid grew too fast. Put those items to great use by bringing them to our Coat & Shoe Drive for the Bethlehem Center. I will deliver to the Beth on Dec. 9th or every time we have a van load!