Manna Ministry at St. Luke's in Denison
Walking into St. Luke’s during the Manna Ministries clothing giveaway is like browsing in a department store. Rows of neatly filled racks of clothing, nicely hung on hangers are sorted by gender, size and season. When folks walk through the door they are given an empty bag to fill for themselves and others. The ministry provides clothing to those in far North Texas who need help to make ends meet. The outreach is ecumenical with the congregation from St. Luke’s and area churches providing leadership and volunteers.
“Everyday I’m in contact with people in desperate situations – they are homeless, food insecure and inadequately clothed for the season,” said the Rev. Donald Perschall, rector at St. Luke’s. “This clothing ministry is essential. It meets a need.”
There are at least two big give-aways annually that provide clothing for the spring/summer seasons and for fall/winter. Area churches in town and in adjacent towns are notified so they can help spread the word. Those who come to shop do so for free. “We very intentionally do not ask for income, social security number, photo identification or make any restrictions,” said volunteer Carol Singletary. “A lot of people are long-term homeless. The only question we ask is how many people are you shopping for, and then we hand them the bags and turn them loose.”
The gratification of helping others is immediate, Singletary said, noting that once a homeless woman came in wearing old sneakers with the sole flapping. “We were able to feed her and give her a nice pair of shoes,” she said. “Another time a woman came in who had just left her abusive husband. She had her two sons and didn’t think she could get back in the house to get their clothes and asked if we could help, and yes we did help.”
The ministry, which attracts hundreds of people to its doors, with an all-time high of 1,100, also serves a manna meal on Saturday nights with four courses including a robust main course such as pork chops or turkey.
Trish McElvy, a parishioner at St. Luke’s enjoys volunteering for the program and helps to get the word out through social media. “We have a Facebook page and I’m taking photos and posting a daily diary of what’s coming up,” she said. McElvy goes onto area garage sale sites and posts the information there as well. She also sets up an Amazon account that lets people buy and donate items for the cause and Amazon delivers the goods to St. Luke’s door.
Working a couple of days a week at the county homeless shelter has shown McElvy the importance of serving those who most need it. “There are so many people who live right on that edge,” she said. Many of the seniors not only have physical needs but also crave fellowship, she added. They come early and sit around and talk.” She remembers one woman who came in and picked out four outfits and asked if any would work for a job interview. “It was great to help her,” McElvy said. “When you know you look good, you have that extra confidence.”
During the week the church also offers a food pantry stocked with goods such as nut butter, pasta, rice and beans. Volunteer Cody Magers, who is a college
student, said the volunteer work is rewarding. “The little old ladies get so excited for food they will cry and come by and hug me,” she said. “Some are having a bad day and just need someone to listen. When you think about what Jesus did, this is the place.”
Perschall said the outreach ministries are important for his church and the community. “As much as I love the liturgy, this is where it’s at,” Perschall said. “If we are not ministering to the least of us my brother, then you are not doing it.”