Wednesday, 07 October 2015 15:19

Baptist church gives (a lot) of clothes off supporters’ backs

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The phrase that someone would ‘give you the shirt off their back’ came to life at the Temple Baptist Church in Medicine Hat Sept. 19.

From 10 a.m. until mid-afternoon, the church held its third annual ‘The Shirt Off My Back — Clothing Giveaway’ where those in need from the city and the rural area could come in and take as many clothes as they wanted.
In one case, which was repeated throughout the day, two men walked out carrying two large plastic garbage bags full of clothes and they couldn’t have been happier.
Neither could church officials and the event’s organizers.
“It was fantastic,” says Shannon McIlravey, one of the people heading up the event. “We felt it was going to be big.”
She says more than half of the clothes they were able to gather were taken by individuals. McIlravey could not specifically quantify how many people packed the church that day or how many clothes they had and then eventually gave away, but for this year, they had to have tables in two large areas within the church because the amount of clothes was so large. Add that to the remainder of the days with donations, not to mention the clothes they still had from last year’s event, and it equals what could be termed a massive amount of clothes.
“Oh my goodness, we had tables in the rooms, foyers — they were full of tables,” says McIlravey of the various infants, children’s and adult clothing.
McIlravey says church members dropped off clothes, but because of the success of the first two years, community members were also donating good quality, clean items to the cause. It took about a week and a half working a handful of hours every day for the volunteers to go through the donations to ensure they were in decent condition. McIlravey says they would get through sorting and another 20 bags of clothes would arrive.
The clothing give away was just one of the benefits for those there. McIlravey was touched at hearing how thankful people were and saddened by some of the stories people in the area were sharing with her.
“We did more than just give away clothing for sure. We were listening to their stories, they needed an ear to listen,” she explains adding she heard of one person who was still living in a hotel because of the flood was was struggling to make ends meet. Other people had lost employment because of the economic downturn.
“Some of these families were in dire straits. We felt in our hearts this was going to be one of those years ... this year, we heard more stories of distress.
“We were shocked of what we did have left; there was a lot taken, (but) there’s still a lot left. Our door is always open if someone needs some clothing.”
She was especially happy in one case where a woman came in with a donation of clothing, who had come to the event a year before when she was down on her luck. This year, she was able to give back. That made everyone feel really good.
“It was awesome. We always say to do what we can and God called us to do that,” she explains of the give away. “People ask, ‘why do you do this, it’s a lot of work.’ It is, but it’s kinda cool. Right now, (the region) needed this.”
The church is extremely active with different men’s and women’s groups, prayer groups, and hosting retreats throughout the year. They also have children’s groups such as Awana and have played host to the African Children’s Choir. Their Facebook page is constantly offering support and trying to provide assistance to those in need. This includes making sure the call goes out to a family who need help while a loved one is ill or perhaps if there is someone who needs accommodation or child-care assistance.
McIlravey says the church stays active. They are wanting to help and give back because that’s what makes a community. They want to help, donate, spread the gospel not only around the world, but at home.
“It’s about missions,” explains McIlravey. “We’re a missional church. We also assume missions aren’t about out-of-town/out-of-country. We realize we can do missional work right here in the (southeast Alberta) community.”
If people who missed out on the clothing giveaway, they still have a lot, they just need to contact the church or come down and ask.
The next big event is a fall one which takes place Oct. 31 from 2-4 p.m. It is open to the public. McIlravey says they will play some games, enjoy some treats and provide an enjoyable, safe atmosphere for that particular Saturday.
“We can have fun and show love where there is the need,” adds McIlravey.
The church is located at 606 7 St. S.W. in Medicine Hat.

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Ryan Dahlman

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