UMW Builds Community within the Church to Benefit Communities Beyond its Walls

By Brett Hetherington*

Groups build community in different ways. Some create bonds through game nights or playing sports, while others come together for food or social outings. The United Methodist Women unit of Church of the Saviour (North Coast District) in Cleveland Heights recently spent a day giving of their time to create various goods to serve women and families who are in need around the world.

Kevin Schaner oversaw the workday event and detailed what was happening at the various stations during the day. “We have stations for women to work on specific projects: hemming flannel for baby blankets, compiling Birthing Kits for Midwest Missions Distribution Center, cutting and sewing for Days for Girls and making Boomerang Bags. This is our first time to partner with the international organizations of Days for Girls and Boomerang Bags.” She shared that a big push for the event was to encourage women in the church to build community with one another, and invited women both old and young to participate.

Kerry Norman, who serves as the Chapter lead of Days for Girls in Solon, explained how the work the women were doing together would impact the lives of girls everywhere.

“Days for Girls exists to help girls stay in school when they do not have supplies during their menstrual period that would force them to stay at home” she said. “Due to cultural stigmas, lack of education and supplies, girls need to stay home, fall behind in their studies and often are forced to drop out.”

Norman brought instructions and plans for the women of the church to assemble simple hygiene packets that are comprised of 100%-recyclable materials that will be distributed along with education and instruction by the organization to young girls worldwide.

“It is really moving when the girls receive these packets, knowing that women they don’t even know made them across the ocean,” she shared, adding that great care goes into making sure that the colors and patterns of the fabric used in the kits are appropriate for all religious traditions.

“This is my first time making these, and this is a wonderful idea for the girls,” shared one woman as she ran her sewing machine.

The Midwest Missions Distribution Center was also being served at this workday as women prepared sanitary birthing kits to be used for at-home births. The kits include soap, strings to tie off the umbilical cord, razor blades to cut the cord, and two handmade receiving blankets. The Midwest Missions Distribution Center will distribute the finished kits to women in need around the world.

Another new outreach partner for the UMW of Church of the Saviour is Boomerang Bags. The organization began in Australia and the local Cleveland Heights chapter representative Diane Hallum was on hand to share instruction and leadership to the UMW volunteers.

“Boomerang Bags is about reusing and repurposing material, not creating waste. We want to create bags that will help replace the plastic bags that people use when they go shopping,” she said.

One of the volunteers, sewing a bag for the very first time, was looking forward to seeing the finished product, just so she could see what she can accomplish. Following in the mission of the day, right beside this woman was a more-experienced seamstress guiding and offering support and encouragement along the way.

“The idea that some women couldn’t do this because it was too intimidating, then to see that they are able to do it… that joy when someone accomplished the fact that they are sewing. And to see the final product and they can’t help but feel proud of themselves. I love to see that,” Hallum shared, stressing that even novice sewers can master projects made from fairly complicated patterns.

There were also two tables with projects for volunteers who were not as adept at sewing or whose fingers needed a break from performing fine-detailed work. At one table, women filled plastic Easter eggs with candy in preparation for the church’s annual Easter egg hunt. At a nearby table, women crocheted baby sweaters for Midwest Missions Distribution Center and prayer shawls for Church of the Saviour ministers to give to individuals they visit who are in need of comfort.

For the women of Church of the Saviour, building community included looking outside their own walls and investing in the communities of women and families around the world, many of whom they will never meet in person.

Learn more about the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.

Learn more about Days for Girls.

Learn more about Boomerang Bags.

If you have a story of how God is using your local church to transform the community, please contact us at The East Ohio Conference Communications team wants to tell your story.

*Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.