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By ANNETTE HARVISON
Several ladies at Neely Baptist Church have been on a mission (many missions, in fact) to make sure the smallest and most vulnerable in our communities have something to comfort them in unexpected times of need. The mission is sewing small teddy bears to donate to local law enforcement agencies, ambulance services and hospitals. The bears will be handed out to children when they are taken into emergency care for a number of reasons.
The mission started when Pauline Williams was visiting a friend near Starkville. That friend asked Williams to work on a craft project, which was a small, hand-sewn teddy bear. The craft was a church mission, and the friend wanted to share it with Williams with hopes she could spread some comforting bears in this area. The mission will cover Greene, Perry and George counties.
“She (friend) said take it home with you, and you and your ladies get started,” Williams said.
And that’s just what she did. The ladies sat down to talk about how they could use the teddy bears in their missions, and one of them knew how those bears could make a difference for some of the smallest members of our communities. Children can be taken into custody after an accident, home emergencies, for protective reasons and a list of other reasons. Those children are often scared. The ladies at Neely Baptist Church hope to provide the gift of comfort and hope for those children facing an uncertain situation.
“Myra (Green) saw children come in and out at her workplace and said there was a great need for something to hand to those children at the police department,” Williams said.
With that, the ladies began to plan their mission. There were many parts to get together-and not just material pieces. They had to decide where they wanted this mission to go, who they needed to talk to in those places, how many bears to make and how to make sure they could easily be distributed when needed. The ladies also wanted to make sure the children receiving a bear would know they are loved.
“We checked with the hospital and ambulance service,” Marlena Smith said. “They said give them all we can.”
“We want to get with the volunteer fire departments, too,” Williams added. “We are just getting started.”
With a plan in mind, the next step was to begin the work of making lots of teddy bears. Williams came back with a pattern for the bears, but they needed fabric and lots of hands for cutting. Myra Green stepped up to say she could take care of providing fabric-something that was leftover from more than a lifetime of love.
“About 90 percent of it (fabric) came from my mama (the late Nadine O’Neal),” Green said. “My mama sewed everything.”
“There’s lots of love in the material.”
Green said curtains, bedspreads and quilts have been made from the fabrics, and she had used it to make her own grandchildren various items. Passing it on to others that need a little love and comfort was just what the ladies had in mind. But, there were lots of bears to cut from all that material, as the ladies didn’t want to start small, they wanted to make an impact.
Marlena Smith said she had reached out to a friend for advice in cutting so many pieces of fabric into the small teddy bears. Instead of advice, Smith said, she got a helping hand. Although the friend isn’t part of the church group, she was glad to lend her time to the bigger mission. The ladies were thankful for the support to their mission, and they were thankful for the big boost it gave them in getting started.
“She (friend) said she had a good template and told me to bring the fabric,” Smith said. “She cut out all these (fabric pieces spread across the table) with her Cricut (machine). It’s up to us to assemble them.”
“She saved us a lot of time,” Williams said.
The ladies had their work station set up at the Neely Baptist Church fellowship hall, with a couple hundred fabric teddy bear pieces in stacks across the tables. These teddy bears won’t be plain bears. They will come in a variety of bright colors and patterns-and a smiling face. Even though they have their work cut out for them-literally-they are on a mission to get the job done. Much of the assembly is being done as a group at the church, though sewing the two parts together will be done by one lady. Once the pieces are sewn together, the ladies will gather back at the church to complete the bears.
“We have to draw the ears and faces,” Smith said. “Some of it is iron-on. We will stuff it with poly-fill.”
“Bears will be in a sanitary bag and sealed,” Williams said. “We will include an card, and each bear will be prayed over before it’s packaged. We hope to let the children in the church pray over them.”
The group said they plan to distribute 25 Teddy bears to local police department, ambulance service and hospital. Smith said they are having a trial run and would adjust according to need in the future. This mission is just one mission the ladies group at the church has taken on. Their missions keep them close to home, helping their neighbors. And to them, that is an important mission.
“We have community-minded missions,” Williams said. “Instead of sending money and resources away from here, we’re keeping it in our community and surrounding counties. We’re involved in a lot of outreach.”
“We can’t all go overseas to do missions, but we found a lot we can do around here.”