Does giving away coats in New York really do any good?
Absolutely yes, a man told a volunteer team from First Baptist Church in Summerfield.
The team was in New York City to take part in the annual Coats for the City project Dec. 1-3, in which some 5,000 coats were given out in a dozen locations around the city. Another church was scheduled to distribute coats in December too.
On Dec. 1, First Baptist’s team went to a warehouse in Queens, near the East River, operated by Campus Crusade for Christ. The ministry allowed Baptists to offload hundreds of coats, trucked in from North Carolina, for pickup later that day by New York churches for the big distribution Dec. 3.
As the team waited, they talked with Jimmy Bodillo, a local resident who operates the warehouse, which partners with churches around New York City to deliver food, clothing and other basic items to needy people. Bodillo was touched that volunteers would come from North Carolina to give out coats, and he responded by giving his testimony.
He told how back in 2002 he was arrested, tried and sentenced to spend 15 to 30 years in the state prison. Bodillo was not a Christian then, but he challenged God to get him out of jail. New laws and good behavior got him released after three-and-a-half years.
Bodillo was out of jail, but he was without family, home, income or job. He had no education. He had nothing.
He was staying in a shelter for the homeless, “not knowing where to go.”
As Thanksgiving Day approached, members from a local church in the South Bronx came and gave him a Thanksgiving meal.
“It was really a box full of love,” Bodillo recalled with tears in his eyes.
The box also had information about the gospel. He went to the church that had brought him the food, thinking he would just say thanks for the help.
“I guess God had other plans, because I gave my life to Christ that same day,” Bodillo said.
He started attending the evangelical church. Remembering the bargain he had made with God for getting out of jail, Bodillo decided if God did His part of the bargain, he had to do his part by living right.
He became a faithful church member, then a leader. He earned his high school degree, then graduated from a local seminary. Later Bodillo got training to be a counselor. Then he started working with Cru, the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry that includes the warehouse where Bodillo now works.
Bodillo’s church is not Baptist, and he was given a meal, not a coat. But to Bodillo, the coats sent by North Carolina Baptists are still the kind of an expression of love needed to get someone’s attention long enough to hear the gospel.
“I want to say thank you,” he told the First Baptist volunteers. “It’s people like you who literally fill this warehouse. I am proof of what can happen when people give of themselves.”
That has impact, Bodillo said.
“That impact reaches lives, and I am that proof,” Bodillo said. “There are Jimmys all over this city, and you guys are reaching them.”
As the volunteers stood quietly in the concrete-floor warehouse, Jim Morgan led them in singing “Amazing Grace.”
Then the 22-foot truck, filled with a shipment of some 5,000 coats and a second shipment of love, arrived. The First Baptist volunteers started unloading both shipments.