- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (AP) - While the cold weather continues to linger around, a Morristown church is celebrating its anniversary by showing God’s love and providing items for warmth to those in need.

First United Methodist Church recently began its “fence ministry” to help anyone in need of cold weather accessories this winter.

The ministry project hangs items for men, women and children including light clothing, socks, mittens, scarves, toboggans and beanies along the fence line of the church near Second Street.

The clothes are hung inside Ziploc baggies to keep them protected from weathering. Each bag is labeled with a bright-colored, attention-getting piece of paper that reads, “If you are cold and need of this please take it.” The label also has a description of what the item inside is and its size.

FUMC’S Leigh Travis said the idea of the ministry opportunity came about when the congregation of the church’s contemporary service “The Connection” was thinking of ways to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

“FUMC is very mission oriented and that’s something that’s important to our congregation, so an act of service to our community was the vision we had,” Travis said.

Travis said the church congregation started collecting items for the project in the middle of January.

“The pastor had asked for donations and they came in bountiful,” she said.

Travis said the principle point of the ministry is to have the items accessible so that no one has to ask for the items, establishing that the people in need of the garments or those who know someone in need of a bag can just pick them up.

“Our church is a pathway for many people who may going to M.A.T.S. (Ministerial Alliance Temporary Shelter) and the Daily Bread Community Kitchen, so if they have a need they can stop by our in fence and get what they need,” Travis said.

Travis noted the items are not just for the homeless but anyone without the proper cold weather gear.

Travis said in the few weeks the items have been placed on the fence, 326 bags have been taken.

“When we started the ministry we had no idea if it would work. We we’re just trying to see if people would respond. But we are also pretty sure no one is taking advantage of it because we noticed the same bags would remain on the fence when we had warmer weather, so people are only taking the items when it’s cold,” she said.

Travis said she spoke with a few of the church’s neighbors who have seen people looking through the bags and they have been impressed by the ministry.

“One day when I was about to place some new bags on the fence there was a man who had a few bags already in his hand. I noticed he had large hands and he said he was looking for some gloves for himself as it was hard to find his size. He had been collecting bags for others in need he met at the Daily Bread,” Travis said.

“We had no idea if this would be successful or not. We thought it would only reach a small group of people in the area that may have seen it,” she said. “It was our hope that if someone had or heard of a need, the bags went to the proper place.”

Travis said the congregation is continuing to collect donations while the cold weather continues in the Lakeway area. Anything collected and left over will be saved and used to start next year’s fence ministry.

Travis said the congregation has brainstormed the possibility of continuing the fence ministry for other seasons of the year, but are unsure what may be distributed.

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Information from: Citizen Tribune, https://www.citizentribune.com


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