By LINDA M. LINONIS
The Dress to Succeed concept isn’t new but the approach at Greater Friendship Baptist Church is.
The ambiance is boutiquelike, and the welcoming atmosphere priceless.
The clothing and accessories are free.
The outreach ministry at Greater Friendship Baptist Church puts Scripture into action. Passages from Matthew 25:35-40 relate how Jesus said fulfilling the thirst, hunger, companionship and clothing needs of “the least” is the same as doing those deeds for him.
Elder Rose Carter, associate minister and director of Christian education at Greater Friendship, came to the church in September 2010 and founded the Dress to Succeed ministry in May 2011. “The Lord led me here,” Carter said.
Carter said she had specific goals for the free clothing project.
“I wanted to make certain people kept their dignity,” she said. People going back to work, college students and people in general might not be able to afford proper clothing for certain circumstances, she noted.
In the Dress to Succeed room on the third floor of the church, clothing for men and women is displayed on circular racks, and shoes occupy other racks nearby. Coordinated apparel is showcased on mannequins and walls. “We want people to have a good feeling when they’re here,” Carter said.
“We’re selective about what we take in,” she said, adding “People take pride in what they get.” Customers are limited to two outfits.
Carter handpicked women for the ministry; Pastor James Bowie approved the selections. “The women on the committee are dedicated to community and outreach,” Carter said. “We’re here to fill a need.”
Dress to Succeed ministry members are Rosilee Adams, a member since 1961; Phyllis Brewer, baptized at the church in 1962; Roberta Dawson, 40-year member and church clerk; Deborah Ivory, 35-year member; Earlean Jefferson, a member since childhood and new member of the ministry; and Elizabeth Oree, baptized at the church in 1967. Other ministry members are Marjorie Morrison, Viola Saulsberry, Michele Coney, Francine Jeffries and Ethel MacIntosh.
Church trustees, Thomas Sipp, Emmitt Ellis and James Kelly, help with signs and setup.
“These are women who have been saved and who love people. They can see the Christianity in people,” Carter said.
“The ministry is a blessing,” Dawson said, referring to its effect on volunteers and those who benefit. “It’s wonderful to help,” she said.
The team that Carter put into place credits its leader with the vision and execution of the project. Social-service agencies and community organizations refer clients to the ministry, which also donates clothing to other Valley groups that aid people.
Each member, Oree said, has found her niche in the ministry. “We’re blessed to receive the clothing and give it out,” Oree said. She said she liked having the hangers facing one way and clothing just so because it projects a neat and orderly appearance.
Brewer and Morrison put their expert ironing skills to use to freshen clothing.
The women mesh like a “second family,” teasing one another and complimenting individual talents. “Christ loves us and so we should love each other. This is a therapy in its own way,” Brewer said. “It lifts you up.”
Ivory added, “I’m thankful to be a part of this ... It elevates.”
“Knowing you’re helping people is the reward,” Adams said.
When people offer to pay or give a donation, the women tell them that “Jesus paid it off.”
Jefferson said she finds satisfaction knowing the ministry is “able to help people dress appropriately for church and other occasions.”