A women’s mission group that meets at First Baptist Church in Statesboro uses thread in some fashion to sew, knit or crochet and, according to facilitator Debbie Martin, “We’ve almost wrapped the globe.”
Members of the group, adequately named Caring Threads, hand-make various items at home to distribute to others and then meet weekly to pack boxes to deliver locally or mail all over the world.
Local nursing homes and tornado victims in north Georgia receive sewn comfort pillows and blankets.
Knitted chemo caps are delivered to a local oncologist group and to a women’s pavilion in Vidalia.
Crocheted hats and scarves are mailed to a missionary living in Croatia to give away and some make their way regularly to Cotzebue, Alaska.
A birthing center in West Virginia for women in prison graciously accepts blankets, caps, booties, bibs and burping cloths from the mission group.
A missionary couple serving in Indonesia took back Caring Threads projects to distribute.
Teams participating in mission trips have taken bookmarks, puppets, toys and clothing items to Africa, Haiti, Russia and Korea.
And washcloths, finger puppets, bracelets and bows tucked inside shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child have landed on almost every continent.
The collection of crafters was knit together by mission-minded First Baptist Church member Mary Phelps in January of 2008 after learning about a sewing circle at Pittman Park Methodist Church.
“God laid it on her heart to do this,” said Sharon Manley. “And she pulled all these people in to help her.”
The group and fellow church members were devastated when Mary was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and lost her battle quickly in 2011. Debbie Martin took over as facilitator; Joan Slaght became known as the box-packer, and Sharon Manley searches for locations to send the handmade items.
“To us, it’s just pennies worth of yarn,” says Martin. “But to those we give to, it’s a treasure. One gentleman told us that if he ever had to go to assisted living, he was taking his pillow from First Baptist.”
Sharon Manley describes an uncanny story about the crafts. “My husband and I camp a lot. I was working on some stuff on the way to Alaska and ran out of yarn.
“I stopped at a store for more yarn, and two Eskimo ladies asked me a question. They mentioned that they were from Cotzebue, which was hundreds of miles from where we were.
“I asked if they’d ever received any hats and scarves from a missionary there. Excitedly and appreciatively, they told me that they had gotten some for their grandchildren.
“I had chills. I told them, ‘I’m one of the ladies that makes those.' ”
Sometimes the group gets special requests for projects. A rewarding, yet, bittersweet request came from another area of Alaska.
“A group asked for a few preemie burial layette sets,” said group member Janet McGhin. “They had requested them to have on hand for babies that sadly do not survive so the parents have something to bury them in. These are items you hope stay on the shelf and are never used.”
Though many of the crafters are retired and sport beautifully coiffed gray hair, Caring Threads takes pride in a couple of their younger members. Twelve-year-old Olivia Spitler, daughter of Adam and Robin Spitler, “can crochet up a storm,” said Manley.
Maurine Martin, recent high school graduate and daughter of the facilitator participates when her schedule allows.
“One summer, my mom said, ‘I think you’re gonna enjoy this,’ ” said Maurine. “And I thought, ‘Dang; it’s going to be a bunch of old people.’ But I love to hang out with them, and I enjoy their conversations. I feel like I’m serving those we send to, but I am also serving these ladies. I’m kind of their gopher.”
All of the handmade items come with a tag that contains the verse from the Bible in John 3:16, First Baptist Church’s label, and a note stating, “Made for you by women on mission.”
Debbie Martin recently updated the group’s notebook and realized that as of June, Caring Threads has sent out 20,843 items around the world.