Washed Clean

More than 20 years ago, Betty Jo Jones, a social worker and member of Bridgeport Presbyterian Church in Bridgeport, West Virginia, noticed that many children going into foster care arrived with few possessions. To help, Jones wanted to donate toiletries. 

“She saw the need, and the church felt like it would be a great outreach program, so they supported her from the start,” says Jessica Johnson, a church elder at Bridgeport and chair of the church outreach committee. 

So Jones and her church members went to work, putting together baggies filled with personal care items such as lotion, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, lice eradication kits and facecloths. Jones later began adding a children’s book in each kit, and baby blankets in the kits for infants. 

The program was well received—and quickly brought to mind other areas of need beyond foster care. The ministry organized and rose to the challenge. 

Today, Jones is retired, but Bridgeport Presbyterian continues the mission, with an expanded ministry that includes delivering toiletry kits to nurses, counselors and health-care workers with the local school system and health department. They now also put together and distribute cleaning supply kits containing dish soap and laundry detergent.

Besides the outreach committee, Johnson also sits on the church’s Children’s Health Pantry Board, and together, she and her fellow members shop discount stores for supplies and keep them in a large walk-in closet in the fellowship hall.    

Jones delivered kits to more than 700 children a year, Johnson says. But when the pandemic hit, demand for the kits stalled due to school closures and community lockdowns. But in 2021, calls for the kits resumed, and the church delivered about 100 kits that year. This year, they assembled and delivered 100 kits by April.

“We’re the hands and feet of Jesus, and we’re here to help,” Johnson says. “Jesus didn’t look for gratitude or to be honored. He was there to do for the people, and we want to do for the people who need help.”

Gail Allyn Short
Gail Allyn Shorthttp://gailashort.wordpress.com

Gail Allyn Short is freelance writer in Birmingham, Alabama. She leads a nursing home ministry and teaches a Bible study class for new believers at Integrity Bible Church.