Today we get to meet Mary Meneley, one of BridgeBuilders’ most faithful volunteers:
I began serving as a volunteer at BridgeBuilders in July 2010, when the operation was located at the Eye Clinic Center. The clothes closet ministry was part of the partnership BridgeBuilders had with the Women's Ministry at Prestonwood Baptist Church. The prior coordinator moved out of town and Debbie Stuart asked if someone might feel led to take her place at a meeting I was attending. One of my friends, who was also at the meeting, said to the group, "That would be a great position for you, Mary." I didn't think it was a good fit as I had never been involved in anything like a clothing ministry before. I had always served as a teacher from my public school career to leading and teaching in children's and adult programs at church. The next morning as I was spending time with the Lord, it was like He said to me, "You have been praying for a new opportunity to serve Me and I gave it to you and you turned your back on it." I was so convicted, I immediately went to my computer and emailed Debbie Stuart and told her I thought the Lord wanted me for the job. That was the beginning of doing something out of my comfort zone, unfamiliar to me and something I would have to rely completely on God to show me what it was He wanted me to do.
The ministry has been an ever-changing and evolving experience, no two days of service alike. We began in a small closet at the Eye Clinic, offering donated clothes to clients of the Eye Clinic coming for glasses or medical care. I would walk the halls lined with people waiting to be seen, making small talk, offering water or something to read and ask if there was anything I might pray for them about. It was a sweet time of ministry and filled with the unknown based on the needs of the people visiting the clinic. Shortly friends started joining me in this effort and we were able to accomplish so much more, even in a very small space. Several years ago the clothing ministry was moved to the Educational Development Center on Commerce, where it is currently located. The very large space was outfitted for much more inventory and the focus was changed to meet the needs of the students coming to the Works Program classes. Before long the large warehouse space filled up with God's blessings and provisions. The space evolved into more of a department type store setting, with dressing rooms, a large men's area, women's area and areas for shoes and accessories. Currently, we have relocated again, due to circumstances out of our control and are operating in a smaller space with the same focus, the clients in the Works Program.
There are between 12-14 volunteers serving in The Closet of Hope, which is what we call this ministry. It’s purpose is to offer hope for a better life to those who come through our door, by helping people find attractive and appropriate clothes to present themselves in a more acceptable manner to prospective employers. We also offer them hope through encouragement and the love of Jesus as we serve and minister to them. This is my favorite part of volunteering in The Closet of Hope, interacting with and engaging the clients who come to us with such needs and being able to touch them in a way that they leave us knowing we care for them and want the best for them.
Each time we meet to volunteer, we start the day with devotions, prayer and sharing our needs with each other. Our group has grown into more of a sister-hood as we have served together with the same mind and spirit. This is a huge encouragement to me and draws me even on days that are hard as I am always lifted up as we share together in prayer, bonding us closer together in our service to the Lord.
God has had His hand on this ministry for He has blessed it beyond what we could have asked for or imagined. Men and women have come to us without hope and because of the ministry of the Works Program and what we can offer them to give them a lift in their spirit and a feeling of self confidence by being appropriately dressed, they leave with a different attitude and sense of who they are and what they can accomplish. I am aware of many who have been down and out, who now hold jobs and are independent, contributing to our society. The struggle is great for some but God is a big God and can work amazing wonders when people put their hand in His. That is my hope for those who come through the door of The Closet of Hope, that more would see the love of Jesus and turn their lives around to follow Him.