A rural church’s clothes closet that serves about 25 people a week balloons annually into a warehouse that served 757 people one weekend in August.
Peace Haven Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro proves what can be done when a person with passion grabs an idea in her teeth and shakes it until the objections fall out.
For the tenth year Peace Haven member Vicki Hash led volunteers from her church and now, 15 others, to gather enough new and used clothing to provide back to school clothing and supplies for 446 children, and additional help for the 311 adults who accompanied them.
Volunteers make appointments to the big event with clients of Peace Haven’s clothing and food closets to insure orderly distribution.
Before they made appointments they once had 310 people walk through the door in 10 minutes.
Each child receives six pair of new socks and six pair of new underwear. Most clothes are used and shoppers can take all they need.
Additionally, each child receives a packet of school supplies. Later, the area is open to the public.
Parked north of town on a dead end road it shares with several trailer parks and a smattering of brick homes, Peace Haven keeps its metal family life center humming with ministry activities beyond the annual back to school clothing distribution.
It hosts an annual Junior Camp, a sportsman’s banquet in partnership with Oakwoods Baptist Church, Christmas and Easter dramas, a HallowHim fall event at Halloween, Angel Tree ministry to children of incarcerated parents and outreach performances by such groups as the Jeremiah People and Power Team.
This year’s clothing distribution was to the largest group of children and adults in its 10-year history. At its heart is Hash, a volunteer who says she does it “because I’ve been in their shoes.”
“I know what it’s like to be a single mom and hold two jobs and not pay the doctor so I could buy food,” Hash said. Today she works in human resources at a local prison, following 19 years in a similar role with the Employment Security Commission.
Blessed with a missions heart and organizational drive, Hash ramrods the clothing effort and corrals volunteers with the promise of sharing her joy.
“You know when God tells you there is a need and there is something you can do, you follow what God wants you to do,” she said. “God has given me a talent to do organizational stuff and I love putting it to work.”
She provided 3,000 flyers to school counselors asking them to invite students they knew are on free or reduced lunch at school; and all clothing and food pantry clients are invited to the back to school clothing giveaway.
Volunteers are sensitive to the practical realities of such events. Rachel Lyall, who operates the regular clothing closet, said volunteers do not put out any clothes they would not wear themselves.
“Why take your used clothing to Goodwill?” Hash would ask of other Christians. “Give them to someone who can use them, for free.”
Lyall says if they don’t have enough clothes they pray.
Once they received 42 pairs of jeans five minutes after they prayed for the need.
She supplies clothes for people going to job interviews, and once found a lavender dress in the racks she didn’t even know she had that was just right for a woman who came needing a dress in which to bury her sister.
Food pantry active
Steve Hash is Vicki’s husband and he operates the food pantry at Peace Haven.
By wise and careful purchasing he turned $20,000 in budget and donations last year into $240,000 worth of distributed food.
While you might not think of rural North Carolina as a place needing a food pantry, Hash said many areas around North Wilkesboro remind him of the poverty stricken areas of West Virginia where he lived as a youth.
People can’t find jobs, said Lyall. They are coming to the church for clothing and food. “We always see they get what they need,” she said.