Mt. Zion Ministries coat drive warms bodies and hearts

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Pastor Juan Leon (left) and Betty Burley pose in front of the coats they are offering to the community. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Collaborative event shows “love is still here”

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (October 16, 2020) – Residents across Lansing are starting to pull out their coats as fall temperatures continue to cool. On Thursday, Mt. Zion Ministries and the Community Closet of Steger pulled out about 500 to help the community.

Though Mt. Zion Ministries regularly does clothing drives, this year is the first the nonprofit organization has done a giveaway for coats and winter items.

Warming the community

“There’s a lot of homeless in the area and a lot of seniors. I’m here every day during the week and we’ve had a lot of them come to the door and ask for coats specifically,” said Betty Burley, secretary at Mt. Zion UFL Ministries (2340 177th Street, Lansing).

This is the first year Mt. Zion Ministries has hosted its “Winter Wear Giveaway.” There were around 500 items available to anyone who needed them. (Photo provided by Mt. Zion Ministries)

Sensing the need for a coat drive, Burley and Mt. Zion Ministries Pastor Juan Leon partnered with the Community Closet of Steger to bring the “Winter Wear Giveaway” to Mt. Zion Ministries. Some of the materials available to the public on Thursday were gathered by Mt. Zion and others were brought by Laura Hensley from the Community Closet.

Although the drive officially started at 4 p.m., Burley and Hensley said people stopped throughout the day as the coats were being set up to see what was going on, and some passersby ended up taking items home.

The same happened with donations, said Hensley: “People just stop and say, ‘Hey I heard what you’re doing, here’s some coats.'”

“It’s amazing how much clothing you can collect if you just ask. … If you give a person an opportunity to do good, or to help somebody—it doesn’t have to come out of their wallet because everybody’s strapped—but if you give them an opportunity to help, they’re going to. People want to be good, they want to help,” Hensley said.

Shirley Brown has seven kids at home, and although many of the items available were too large for her kids, she went home with hats and reading materials. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Shirley Brown, who has three kids of her own and is fostering four more, said she was grateful to be able to pick up free items from the coat drive. “My kids are going to be very happy and blessed to have these things. They don’t have this stuff right now,” she said. “I’m not a picky person, this is a blessing.”

Food was also available in the kitchen of the building for anyone who wanted some.

Laura Hensley of the Community Closet of Steger is pictured in the Mt. Zion kitchen, where food was available to anyone who needed it. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Helping together

Mayor Patty Eidam stopped in at the giveaway and expressed her support. (Photo provided by Mt. Zion Ministries)

Neither Mt. Zion Ministries nor the Community Closet of Steger are new to charity. In March of last year, Mt. Zion started the first micro pantry in Lansing, designed for individuals to take food and other necessities anonymously. The organization’s example influenced the second Lansing micro pantry, which started earlier this month. Mt. Zion has also recently been donating handheld audio Bibles to anyone who wants them, and annually gives away back-to-school backpacks full of school supplies.

The Community Closet of Steger and Southlands, which is active at the First Christian Church of Lansing at 2921 Ridge Road in Lansing, has clothing giveaways most Sunday afternoons. The organization also holds an annual Prompalooza—a giveaway of donated formal items to help teens be prepared for a prom that might otherwise be too expensive for them.

“We’re not the same church, but we have the same goal.” Hensley said of the Community Closet and Mt. Zion’s partnership. “We have a community that needs help.” Burley added, “I really believe a collaboration is really the only way a community can survive and thrive.”

Pastor Juan Leon (left) and Betty Burley pose in front of the coats they are offering to the community. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“There’s so much division, there’s so much fear with COVID. There’s a spirit of ‘let me do this for me,’ a spirit of self-survival. And this says that the richness of the human spirit is still here. Love is still here. Community effort is still here. … COVID has not shut everything down,” said Pastor Leon. “Some people would come and they were teary-eyed, [saying], ‘This is for us and it’s free?’ That is a reward right there.”

Mt. Zion Ministries is located at 2340 177th Street in Lansing. Community Closet of Steger’s Lansing location is 2921 Ridge Road. More information about the organizations can be found on their Facebook pages: Mt. Zion UFL Ministries and Community Closet of Steger.