Members of Bethel AME Church in Hinesville started their clothing ministry in a closet. Then it grew to fill a 9x12 room as they recognized the growing need in the community. This ministry is still growing and they want to do more.
When Tanya Pridgen learned that so many families would be relocating to the Hinesville area after Hurricane Katrina, she told her minister that the church had to do more. So she took a week off from her job.
"Me, my husband, Charlene and Mrs. Roberson stayed here from 8 to 5 and offered as much assistance as we could offer to them," she recalled.
Their hard work resulted in two apartments filled with everything from furniture to clothing and shoes and accessories to toys and food for anyone who is in need. And their clients, especially the hurricane survivors, have come to rely on the ministry like a second family.
"It shows me that there are people out there who are willing to help no matter who you are or where you are from," Katrina survivor Arianne Bolds said. "There is still caring and love. It's genuine from the heart."
"Tanya has been helping us with clothes, making sure we get what we need in the house, the food," said fellow survivor Debra Richburg.
For many others in the community, the ministry has been helping them make ends meet for years. They couldn't imagine their lives without it. "It would be very devastating," client Rosa Thomas told us.
"God says in the Bible to feed his sheep and clothe them and give them comfort," said missionary president Ollie Roberson. "That's what we are here for."
And to see so many people coming through the doors with donations and clients leaving every evening, with garbage bags filled with clothes and food that they desperately need, keeps the ministry motivated and anxious to do even more.
"I'm happy because I know the word is getting to someone," said Pridgen. "I know that I am doing something right."
"This is a great ministry," said Thomas. "It has benefited the community, me and my family."
"We welcome people to just come in and say take it," said Roberson. "Take it! It's free! It's yours!"
That generosity is how Tanya Pridgen and the Bethel AME Church clothing ministry capture the WTOC Community Spirit.
If you need help or would like to make a donation to the clothing ministry, call Tanya or Ricky Pridgen at 980.6714 or 980.6718.