- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

KANSAS, Ill. (AP) - When Susie Arwine was considering possible retirement activities several years ago, she looked at a teddy bear sewing pattern that she happened to have and decided to give it a try.

Since then, making teddy bears for those in need of good cheer has become a passion for the Kansas woman. This passion has led Arwine to recently create 100 bears for a mission trip that she and four other women are set to take next week to eastern Kentucky in Appalachia.

The women plan to personally give the bears and other handicrafts to families in financial need during their mission trip, which is supported by the Kansas Christian Church. Arwine said they want to “extend our hand of friendship” and give them hope, especially the children. BY Rob Stroud. SENT: 590 words, photos

“Everyone should have a teddy bear. Those children down there don’t have anything,” Arwine said. “It’s all about the children. If they don’t have hope, they don’t have anything.”

Those taking part in the mission trip scheduled for Monday through Thursday are Arwine; her daughter, Stephanie Myers of Kansas; fellow Kansas Christian Church member Donna Goddard; her daughter, Jamie Schwerman of Shumway; and Arwine’s cousin, Sharon Sentena of Washington state.

In addition to the bears, Arwine has made 28 rag dolls for children in Appalachia. Sentena has created 25 aprons and Goddard has made seven quilts for the trip, as well. The quilts consists of four throws and three baby blankets. These items are on display in the Kansas Christian Church sanctuary, where some of the bears can be found perched on window sills.

Goddard said she started making quilts several years ago to create presents for her grandchildren and has been quilting ever since then.

Arwine said her hobby and passion of sewing has been assisted by her husband, Rick, who built a sewing room for her upstairs in their home. She said it takes her about four hours to sew the cotton quilting material, stuff each bear and hand stitch the seams closed, but this labor of love is well worth the effort.

Both Arwine and Goddard said they both feel called to create handicrafts for those in eastern Kentucky and to travel there to deliver these items.

“I have always wanted to go on a mission trip and I have a heart for less fortunate people,” Goddard said.

Arwine added, “It will be an adventure. We have never done anything like that before. We are just taking that leap of faith and praying all goes well while we are there.” She added that her daughter, Myers, is already planning to put her skills as a registered nurse to work on future mission trips.

Their trip next week will take them to Big Creek Missions is Leslie County, Kentucky. Arwine said Big Creek is based in a converted old school building and offers a variety of mission projects, including construction work. She said their trip will focus on helping children, single mothers and widows, and will include a visit to a local church.

Arwine said Kansas Christian Church has collected monetary donations to help cover the costs of the mission trip and to provide some financial assistance to those that they assist in Appalachia.

“The people at the church are definitely behind us and involved,” Arwine said. “For a small congregation, I have never seen so many people ready to bless someone else.”

Kansas Christian Church can be contacted at 217-948-5132. More information about Big Creek Missions is available online at https://bigcreekmissions.com/.

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Online: Mattoon Journal-Gazette and (Charleston) Times-Courier, https://bit.ly/1lNyuUk

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Information from: Mattoon Journal-Gazette, https://www.jg-tc.com

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