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"Every student needs a great start for a great school year." Members who had no clothing to donate visited area second hand stores and garage sales, purchasing clothing to donate. Others hit the local stores and bought cases of note books, crayons, pencils and book bags. On a sweltering July afternoon 8 years ago during a Church potluck, several parents shared with one another the struggle they were facing in getting school clothing for their kids for the fall. Many suggested visiting the second hand shops or garage sales but many lamented that even those prices were above their means.

Families with more than one child seemed to be struggling the most. The school district had fees to attend public school and this was an added burden. $75 to put a child into kindergarten! Crazy. They called it a book rental but the district owned the books. And how many books does a kindergarten student use anyway?

The parents decided to organize a clothing swap. Free to all. Bring what you don’t need and take what you do. And so the Back to School Clothing Give-away was born.

And it grew!

Mid August the congregation opened it’s doors to the entire community of 6,000 of Geneseo, IL with tables stacked high with good, clean, quality clothing. Sunday school classrooms became dressing rooms & pews became shoe display stands. Over 100 people visited that day and left with things they needed. Several of the members families came and "shopped" and left with smiles.

The volunteers came up with the motto for the project that day, saying over and over to those who came through the door, "Every student needs a great start for a great school year."
Members who had no clothing to donate visited area second hand stores and garage sales, purchasing clothing to donate. Others hit the local stores and bought cases of note books, crayons, pencils and book bags.

Over the years it has grown and the little Church has become known for the Give-away. The volunteers put in hundreds of hours gearing up for it each summer. Using an entire classroom to store clothing, evenings of sorting and folding, putting out posters and getting the word out.

Then on the day of the Give-away, road signs go out, balloons go up and an army of helpers man their posts. The doors open and everyone is blessed with the buzz.

We hold the babies so Mom’s can try things on, we play with the toddlers so the older siblings can find just what they need with Mom or Dad. We take the nervous teen who has come alone, by the hand and shop with her. Encouraging all to take what they need.

Three quick hours later, it all stops. What few clothes are left are a bit messy but the smiles and joy keep everyone excited. The army digs in for one last push, loading the clothing that wasn’t taken into bags to be donated to a local charity. The left over school supplies go to the neighborhood school and everything is cleaned and set for Sunday services. It is by far the most exhausting, rewarding ministry project ever. And we can’t wait to do it again this summer.

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