Bay City Church Takes To Heart ‘Love Your Neighbor As You Love Yourself’ With Nonstop Coat Gift
BAY CITY, MI – A small church tucked away in the South Bay City neighborhood is on a mission to make a big impact in keeping those in need warm during the cold winter months.
The Great Lakes Dream Center at 700 Lafayette Avenue has been offering winter gear such as jackets, coats, sweaters, blankets, hats and gloves since 2018 right outside its doors on racks for those in need.
“It’s actually quite biblical. John the Baptist says if you have two coats, give your brother one if he needs it, ”said Pastor Mary Rathke of the Great Lakes Dream Center.
This community closet setup works no questions asked. Individuals or families can simply come and grab what they need at any time of the day throughout the winter. Lockers will be left in place for the remainder of the winter until the need decreases.
“There are definitely a lot of people in the community who will never set foot in any type of community center and church, so by putting it on the sidewalk they can kind of get up and browse the items when no one is looking. and it really helps them. know that someone cares but they can still have their privacy, ”said Rathke.
Blankets are one of the most requested items this year. Rathke said she would often put on 20 to 30 blankets a day and be gone the next day. She said the church probably distributes over 100 to 200 coats each year.
“In reality, what Jesus said was to love your neighbor as you love yourself,” she said. “Our neighbors are the people in need here in the South End. I knocked on doors, I saw people in need, I saw the children outside without a coat… I saw the real need.
Rathke reflected on the dire financial situations she saw community members in.
“In the winter, we find that a lot of people would come and ask for prayer because they couldn’t afford their heating bill or they kept their heat at around 50 because they didn’t want their heat. pipes are freezing but they cannot afford gas or electricity, ”she said. “So by giving them extra blankets, giving them extra coats, giving them extra sweatshirts, they can keep their kids warm, keep them warm.
Those who wish to drop off donations are encouraged to hang them on shelves or place them on chairs outside to limit the number of hands handling the items, Rathke said. However, Rathke noted that the church cannot take regular clothing at this time.
“We can’t accept any clothing, because it’s just something that we don’t have the ability to sort or keep and that will cause debris to appear on our steps,” she said.
In addition to the community closet, the church also has a blessing store where people can come in and choose such things as cleaning supplies, feminine hygiene items, dish soap, laundry soap and diapers and a furnishing program that helps furnish furniture such as beds. or sofas for those who need them.
“I think the impact is that people who are in real need realize that the community cares about them and loves them,” she said.
Rathke explained that his church’s work doesn’t just impact those who receive help. She said it made others want to help and it empowered the community by letting them know that there are other ways to help their neighbors.
“I love that by just being the hands and feet of Jesus, actually being a Christian and not just saying that we are a church and that we just come and do nothing, it really has a impact the community in a way and that causes other people to want to help, ”she said.
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