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FBC Huntsville clothes ministry targets nearby public housingcomment (0)

April 5, 2007

By Suzy Lowry Geno

If you’re going to say you care, you’ve got to be ready to do something," Susan Keene said.

The philosophy explains simply the role that she and husband Rodger have in directing Our Father’s Closet, a ministry of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, in Madison Baptist Association. The closet primarily provides clothing for residents of the 180 apartments of the Councill Court public--housing development just across the parking lot from the church.

Pastor David Hull explained that Our Father’s Closet grew from other outreach ministries to those in the housing development, including Vacation Bible School and providing more than 100 backpacks, complete with school supplies.

Councill Court housing manager Vanessa Cameron recognized the church’s heart for the community and pointed out the need for a clothes closet more than three years ago.

First, Huntsville, concurred and the housing development provided room for the ministry in a vacant area.

"You just can’t imagine how just an essential item like a tube of toothpaste or a pair of socks can make a mama’s day," Cameron said. "This (Our Father’s Closet) has been such a blessing to residents."

Many of the residents are single mothers without transportation and often when people move to Councill Court, they’ve spent all the money they had just getting moved, according to Cameron.

While the ministry’s focus was initially on mothers-to-be and infants to eighth-graders, all ages are served. On any given Monday or Saturday, the closet may serve as few as three families or as many as 20.

First, Huntsville, members stock the closet with good used clothing and new items bought through church missions funds.

"It seems like things appear right before we need them," Susan Keene said. "We received a box of size 13 men’s shoes. We looked at those and thought, ‘What in the world will we do with them?’ A couple of days later, a mother came in with two teenage sons who both wore size 13."

Another time, after a pair of men’s thermal long underwear was donated, a resident asked for them, noting her husband’s job required him to work outside in winter weather.

Cameron said the Christian love exemplified by the Keenes and the church is often passed on by the Councill Court residents. "Some of the residents who move on to better their lives try to give things to the closet. Others who are still living here provide clothing their children outgrow."

Mike Pearce, minister of missions and outreach for First, Huntsville, said the church previously was doing a great job with foreign missions and even home missions in other parts of the area but members wanted to be a "better witness close to home."

He said the goal of the ministry is not to gain new members. "This is about building relationships. The Keenes are like their ministers there. It certainly meets a physical need but it’s much bigger."

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