Church ladies sew for CPS children leaving in a rush
By Lindsay Peyton
The beginning of the year was a return to work for the women of Huntington UMC. Their Loose Threads ministry reconvened Jan. 6. Sewing machines were humming, pumping out blankets for adoptions in the area. Church members were also assembling birthday surprise boxes for foster children, a new ministry that started in the spring.
Sandy Sheffield is one of the original eight members of Loose Threads ministry. “I’m one of the instigators,” she said with a laugh.
It all started with a newscast. One of the local stations covered a Tyler resident who would sew clothes for stillborn infants or those who died not long after birth.
“That touched me,” Sheffield said. “I contacted her, and we worked together for a while.”
Loose Threads was born, but its mission pivoted after learning about children in Child Protective Services, who often have to leave in a rush. “These children come out of their homes with literally nothing,” Sheffield said. “We just couldn’t have that.”
Loose Threads began making clothes and bags for the youth. “And that morphed into adoption blankets about five years ago,” Sheffield explained.
CPS asked members of the ministry if they would consider making blankets for National Adoption month in November. “We thought, ‘Sure. Why not?’” Sheffield recalled.
When the month passed, blanket production continued. The women in Loose Threads did not want any of the children to go empty handed.
“Now we make about 200 blankets a year,” Sheffield said. “And we get a list about every two weeks.’
Loose Threads sews blankets and pillows, each monogramed with the child’s name and date of adoption. “It’s for every child in East Texas, from Texarkana to Beaumont,” Sheffield added.
Once blankets are created for each child, they are bundled up and given to a CPS coordinator to distribute.
The ministry also makes clothing protectors for the Lufkin State Supported Living Center. If residents need any clothing repairs, the members of the group step up.
“We were honored to be one of seven groups in the state to be recognized as ‘Volunteers of the Year’ in 2015,” Sheffield said.
The women meet once a week at Huntington UMC. “All of our sewing machines were donated,” Sheffield said. “All we have to do is show up. A couple women who don’t sew iron or cut fabric. We all stay busy.”
Last year, CPS asked if Huntington UMC would take on a new project. Sheffield explained that there are several foster care children in the county, who are unable to celebrate their birthdays.
“They just told us there’s a need, and we thought you might want to help out,” Sheffield recalled. “We brought it to our church board in early spring. And it’s something we decided we wanted to do as a church. We wanted to do something for those children.”
That turned into a new ministry – the Birthday Surprise Boxes. Huntington UMC asks members for donations of toys. Or if money is donated, volunteers shop for gifts.
Then, everything is bagged up depending on ages and gender for Angelina County foster care. “We put five or six things in each bag,” Sheffield said.
Older children receive a gift card. Sheffield explained that the Birthday Surprise Boxes are a work in progress. Already 25 have been completed towards the 116 children on the list. “We will definitely keep it going,” Sheffield said.
She explained that during the pandemic, church members had to stop meeting for a couple of months. But that did not mean they weren’t still sewing. Women would stop by the church to pick up supplies and work from home.
“After we were able to get the vaccine, we went back to business as usual,” Sheffield said. “Now, we have a big inventory of blankets.”
Loose Threads already has six adoptions to celebrate. “We’ve got something to keep us busy now that we are back,” Sheffield said. “We’re also going to start putting together the birthday boxes.”
The ministry has been going strong now for about a dozen years, she added. “We’ve been at this for a while, and we enjoy it,” she said.
“I love children, and I just see this as a way I can help out,” Sheffield added. “We can’t sit there and not do anything. There are children out there who need us.”