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Change of Clothes Changes Hearts and Souls

Teachers at Huron Middle share a photo of thanks for Riverview UMC's change of clothing ministry. Photo courtesy of Riverview UMC Facebook page.
Teachers at Huron Middle share a photo of thanks for Riverview UMC's change of clothing ministry. Photo courtesy of Riverview UMC Facebook page.
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“It is a blessing to be a blessing,” says Rev. Teresa Person, who serves at Riverview United Methodist Church in Huron, South Dakota, and the United Methodist congregation in Virgil, South Dakota. Riverview United Methodist Church started a ministry to gather donations for the local schools to have  a change of clothes on hand when needed for a variety of circumstances.

Riverview United Methodist Church is a part of the Dakotas Annual Conference.

A member of Riverview UMC in Huron, South Dakota, had it on her heart to reach out to the local middle school to help the students. She thought there might be a need for feminine hygiene products. But after visiting with the school counselors and administrators, she found out there was a need for a change of clothing.

At the middle school and many other schools, accidents happen, and it can cause an embarrassing or uncomfortable situation. Clothing can get ripped, torn, or stained as students go throughout their day. Or maybe a student shows up at school without a clean set of clothes to wear.

Pastor Teresa Person blesses the totes before they are delivered to Huron Middle School. 
Pastor Teresa Person blesses the totes before they are delivered to Huron Middle School.

“After we heard about the need, things happened quickly. Within a two-three-week time, we gathered $2,200,” said Pastor Teresa.

A volunteer headed out to shop for sweatpants, socks, and underwear. The middle school has t-shirts and sweatshirts on hand to compliment Riverview UMC’s items. Then the youth group sorted and packed things into zip-locked bags. While the youth packed the clothing items, they realized that what they were preparing would go to the people they went to school with each day.

“Students shared stories, saying things like, ‘I wish this would have been available for me. I know I have had something embarrassing happen to me, and there wasn't anything like this.' It was encouraging to them to know they were helping their fellow students,” said Person.

A message of encouragement was also placed in each bag. The message is a quote from Charles R. Swindoll, “Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” Also on the printed message is the logo and name of Huron Riverview United Methodist Church.

Person said, “We wanted to let the student receiving the change of clothing know that we were thinking about them and that we care about them.”

As an illustration during a sermon, Pastor Teresa shared what was happening at Riverview UMC with the congregation she serves in Virgil. The congregation in Virgil, South Dakota, jumped in and donated $500 to the middle school ministry.

“They immediately got into action. They looked for a connection to the schools in their area at Wolsey and Wessington,” said Pastor Teresa. “They found out that there was a need for some funding in the afterschool program for snacks, so the congregation at Virgil donated funds to those schools. It is ministry encouraging ministry.”

The items were blessed during a church service before the totes full of the change of clothes bags were delivered to the school. There were several sizes in the many totes that were filled. Thanks and gratitude for the items were flowing from the staff and teachers at Huron Middle School.

“It was gratifying to know we were fulfilling a need. There was such a great response that some of the change of clothes kits, especially the smaller sizes, are being shared with the elementary schools,” said Pearson.

excerpt from a story by Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.