RUSSELL, Iowa—First Baptist Church has been looking for ways to serve its community in a no-strings-attached way. “We’ve tried a variety of outreach events,” says Emily Felderman, wife of Pastor Marshall Felderman, “and we’ve found that the most effective events are those in which we meet a physical need. We had heard of other churches and groups doing a clothing giveaway and thought it was worth trying.”
To promote the clothing giveaway, First Baptist printed fliers, added the event to its website, and posted the information on community event pages via Facebook. Church members shared the post on their own Facebook timelines as well. People were invited to donate clothing for all ages, either dropping off the items at the church or, if the people were local, opting to have them picked up.
Emily says the church ended up with “lots and LOTS of clothes to give away!” The majority of the clothing was given by people in the community who either had items left over after garage sales or simply wanted to clean out their closets.
A couple days before the swap, the church family sorted through all of the clothes and arranged them on tables just like anyone would to prepare for a garage sale. They put up display boards that had pictures and information about the church’s ministries, camp, and statewide youth events. Then on the day of the swap, volunteers—ranging in age from 6 to 80—handed out church brochures and cookies to everyone. Those who came were welcome to take as many clothing items as they needed.
“It turned out to be a really great outreach for our congregation!” Emily says. “It didn’t cost us anything—just the time in organizing it and the use of our space. We counted about 30 families who came. Considering the small size of our town, that was a lot! Most of the people who came took at least half an hour to go through the clothes, so we were given great opportunities to have conversations with people and invite them to come back. Several who came asked if we would do this every year, so we are hoping to make this an annual event. We’re already thinking about ways we can improve it for next year.”