KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 20, 2015) -- In the sprawling basement of First United Methodist Church of Farragut, rows of large shelves filled with totes cover one side. These color-coded totes are packed with seasonal children’s clothing from infant to teenage sizes.
Members of the United Methodist Women (UMW) meet every Wednesday morning to sort clothing and place items in the right bins. This UMW ministry, which began modestly in 2008, has clothed nearly 7,000 children. How did it come about?
In 2008 God planted a seed in the minds of the UMW. A group survey revealed the desire to do more hands-on ministry. At the same time, First Farragut UMC was welcoming homeless families as part of a community partnership (now known as Family Promise of Knoxville).
The children in the families needed clothing, and the UMW started collecting items to donate. As individuals and other church groups heard about this clothing ministry, they began to bring clothing to the church.
Anita Oberdecker, UMW president and organizer of Wesley’s Attic, shares the routine experience of coming to the church on Wednesday mornings and finding bags piled upon bags of clothing:
“Sometimes we would have specific requests for children that we could not fill," Oberdecker said. "But we opened the bags and there would be exactly what we needed. It gave us the sense that we were doing God’s work.”
From 2007 to 2009, Wesley’s Attic giveaways exploded. First Farragut UMC began a Christmas ministry, inviting needy families to dinner and providing books, toys, groceries and clothing.
The church also expanded its hunger ministry by distributing Second Harvest Mobile Pantry truckloads of food. Wesley’s Attic opened its totes for these events and as many as 465 children have been clothed at a single event.
Realizing that every child deserves new underwear and socks, Wesley’s Attic began purchasing these items at a cost of about $4,000 annually. This ministry is supported by the annual UMW Tea, Belk Charity Day sales, children’s Vacation Bible School donations, and “Undies Sundays” campaign.
Over the years many blessings have come to those involved in Wesley’s Attic. At one mobile pantry, a little boy walked into the shoe room and found a pair of already worn sneakers in his size. He was delighted to put them on and wear them out of the room. But he quickly returned with his old shoes and handed them to the volunteer.
“Take my shoes. You can give these away to someone else who needs them," he said.
At another mobile pantry, a mother of three children, arms full of clothing, still needed socks and underwear. She tapped a volunteer on her arm and asked, “How much is this going to cost?”
“It’s free,” said the volunteer.
“How can you do that?” asked the mother.
“We have a generous congregation, and we want you to know that God loves you," the volunteer replied.
Tears welled up in the mother’s eyes as she thanked her.
Today Wesley’s Attic serves children in Knox, Loudon and several surrounding counties. God has blessed this ministry and all those who support it.
Find out about Holston's mission emphasis on local children in poverty by visiting WayToGive.Holston.org
Laura Derr is a member and the mobile food pantry coordinator at First United Methodist Church of Farragut in Knoxville, Tennessee.