Merlene Davis: The power of older women keeps Heritage Baptist Church ministries running

Herald-Leader columnistOctober 5, 2013 

Workers who run the Heritage House Mission Clothing Bank at Heritage Baptist Church are Martha J. Clem, left, Barbara May, Paula Curtis, Delores May, Judy Prather, Ann Prather and Sandy Rogers. Doris Leedy is not pictured. The bank is housed across from the church on North Ashland Avenue in Lexington.

I spent last Sunday in the cramped kitchen of my church with a few other old women.

Two of those women, Sandy Johnson and Joyce Madison, are always the first ones to shop, chop and cook for special dinners or funeral repast. And they are still there to clean up afterward.

Not many people looked at all of us at the end of that day and said, "Wow! I'd like to do that."

I can't blame them.

So, when I got an email from Terry Aldridge of Heritage Baptist Church, asking if I could highlight a few mature women in her church and the work they do, I could not say no.

The eight women, whom Aldridge called "The Funeral Crew," work three days a week in the Heritage House Mission Clothing Bank, and are on-call to prepare a meal at the church after funerals for family members.

"It is the Lord's work," said Barbara May, 81. "I enjoy every bit of it. Any time I get called on to do something for the church, I feel obligated to do it."

May is the mother of Sandy Rogers, 54, one of two younger members of the group who was instrumental in bringing the clothing bank outreach to Heritage.

The clothing bank is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It opened in 2007 and is housed in a building across from the church at 163 North Ashland Avenue. The building once was home to youth ministers at the church.

"We use it as an outreach to this community," Rogers said. "We are amazed how God has touched it. We didn't think it would be this big."

More than 100 people walk through the door every month to select articles of clothing or household items for themselves or their families. They are allowed only one visit per month, signing in each time and monitored in a card file.

Rogers said several thousand people have visited since the outreach opened and every item is free.

"We are getting ready to have a food drive at our church to fill the pantry," she said. "Sometimes we have church members who go shopping and bring things over here."

Food, however, is given out through referrals, either from God's Pantry or other organizations, and only on an emergency basis.

Rogers' sister, 61-year-old Delores May, and her aunt, Martha J. Clem, 73, volunteer at the clothing bank. Ann Prather, 77, and her daughter Judy Prather, 54, are also members of the crew, along with Paula Curtis, 61, and Doris Leedy, 71.

"I enjoy meeting the people," said Ann Prather. "And it gives me something to do."

In so many churches, the work women perform is behind the scenes, and those women are usually older. My only proof of that is visual but some of the members of the "The Funeral Crew" confirmed it.

Rogers said younger women have children and families to tend to and it takes two incomes to run a household now. Younger women "really don't have the time or energy to do this," she said. "They'd have to drag the kids along everywhere they go."

That's true.

But the reason I work the church kitchen now is because I've always seen older women do it. At 62, I'm old now and it just seems to be the right thing to do. It can be hard work, however.

"You get tired doing it all the time," Rogers said, "but it is a good tired."

The women aren't worried about themselves. They want to help the men, women and children who walk through the door.

We can help them. Because winter is coming, there is a great need for blankets, bed coverings, and sheets, Rogers said. And, she said, kitchen items such as pots and pans are in great demand.

Baby and adult diapers, as well as hygiene products, especially for women, are also needed.

"Some of the women say they don't know what they would do if it weren't for us," she said.

If you can help them, call (859) 312-3873.

And the next time you see older women working tirelessly in your church, take time to thank them.

Better yet, lend a hand.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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