“So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.” Matthew 25:28-29
On a Galilee hillside, Jesus told the Parable of the Talents. The story goes: A man is going on a trip. Before he left, he entrusts one of his servants with five talents (a form of currency), a second with two talents, and a third with one talent. Before the master returns, two of the servants doubled the money and returned it and the profit to their master. The third servant buried his money until his master returned and returned it without profit. The master is pleased with the extra effort of the first two servants but displeased with the third and casts him into darkness.
According to many interpretations, the Parable of the Talents is a lesson to Christians about the importance of using their own ability and gifts to serve the Lord. In Winona, a group of women are using their own God-given talents in service to the Lord and to help those in need.
The group meets each Tuesday morning in the youth hut at Moore Memorial United Methodist Church, and they use their skills with a crochet hook or sewing machine or various craft materials to create items for the homeless, children around the world, and items to raise money for mission projects.
“We have projects all year round,” said Kay Slocum.
Currently, the group is crocheting sleeping mats for the homeless, made from plastic shopping bags. They also assemble care kits for those living on the street that include toiletries, socks, and hand-crocheted caps and scarves. Tote bags made from old dog food sacks are something they plan to assemble in the future.
Mitchie Billingsley, who crochets the hats and scarves for the care kits, said the group of women get together and enjoy the fellowship while doing something worthwhile.
“We just come up here and have a good time,” she said.
Billingsley explained that the group’s newest project, crocheted mats for the homeless, was conceived by fellow Moore Memorial member Craig Miller.
“He saw me making caps and suggested we crochet mats for the homeless,” Billingsley said.
Miller even crocheted his own mat.
The group began crocheting mats a few months ago, and so far, they have completed 14 mats, “about one a week,” according to Vickye Caldwell. Each mat is rolled sleeping bag-style and features a strap for easy carrying. Caldwell said the mats will be distributed to those in need through Beautiful Feet Ministries, founded by Mike Myers of Kosciusko. The ministry has been assisting the homeless since 1985, according to the website.
“Each mat takes between 500 and 700 [plastic shopping] bags each to make,” said Slocum.
The shopping bags are collected, cut into strips, and knotted into a kind of rope. That rope is used in place of yarn to crochet the mats. Instead of the traditional crochet hooks, the ladies use extra-large hooks to crochet the mats.
The sleeping mats are the perfect accompaniment to the group’s care kits for the homeless, something they have been assembling for some time. Each kit features toiletries like soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, as well as hand-crocheted caps and scarves, socks, and devotional materials.
“We carry them around in our cars and hand them out,” Slocum said. “We’ve been creating the kits over the last year.”
Caldwell said tote bags created from used dog and cat food bags are the next item they will create for those in need.
This same group of ladies assemble Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes for Moore Memorial United Methodist Church each fall, shoe boxes sent all over the world through Samaritan’s Purse, an organization founded by Franklin Graham. Bobbie Bridges uses her talent with a sewing machine to create something extra special in MMUMC’s shoe boxes – pillow case dresses for little girls. Bridges creates dresses in various colors and fabrics, and each dress comes with a hand-crocheted hair bow, compliments of the group.
Billingsley said over the years, the group has collected aluminum cans to raise money for mission trips, and can collection is still ongoing. However, they have begun a different collection ministry – can tabs. For every gallon of tabs from aluminum cans, it pays for one chemotherapy treatment at St. Jude.
Billingsley said anyone willing to donate tabs and aluminum cans can assist a child in need or a mission group.
The women pride themselves on doing what they can to help others, but the weekly gathering also provides a creative outlet and fellowship for the women themselves.
Margarita Vaughn said getting involved with the group has been a blessing from God.
“I prayed that God would give me something to do,” Vaughn said. “I was so lonesome. It was a real blessing from God.”
For those looking for a way to give back to the community, Caldwell said they are always looking for other people wishing to join their ministry.
“We would welcome anyone, even people from other churches, that want to come and help,” Caldwell said. “We definitely could use crocheters and people who can sew. If you want to learn to crochet, we’d be glad to teach you.”
The group also asks for donations of plastic shopping bags, scrap material and yarn, thread, and other crafting materials to assist them with their projects.
The group meets year-round every Tuesday morning beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Moore Memorial United Methodist Church Youth Hut, located just behind the Fellowship House at the corner of Magnolia and Quitman Streets in Winona.
For more information about how to get involved with the group or to make a donation, contact Slocum at 662-299-7412.