‘Warm Hugs’ warms hearts

First Posted: 5/12/2015

Countryside Community Church’s mission statement about spreading the love of God is written over the doors of the church’s main entrance, so when members leave the church, they are reminded to take that message with them into the community.

“We’re not just here to have a turkey supper and to go to church,” said Donna Urbaniak of Ransom Township.

She’s the chairperson of the Warm Hugs Outreach Ministry and the coordinator of the Annual Dutch Auction and Pot Luck Dinner, scheduled this year for Saturday, May 16 at the church located at 14011 Orchard Drive, Newton Township.

A covered dish dinner will get underway at 5 p.m. followed by the auction, which will help raise money for a project near and dear to her heart.

“It (the ministry and auction) is such a team effort,” Urbaniak said of the project she brought to members of the church.

In 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in January 2007, while she was going through chemotherapy, a friend from the church gave her a fleece shawl.

“At the time I was working for Gertrude Hawk Chocolates and the employees collected money and gave me a check for $1,200 to help me through that…,” Urbaniak said.

The shawl and check provided her with comfort and warmth and as she sat in her chair on cold winter days with her shawl around her shoulders, she said she asked God how she could give back to those who gave to her.

“It was such a gift that I needed to pay it forward. I had my shawl around me and took it to chemotherapy, because that stuff going in your veins gets really cold. It was comfort, not just physically, but spiritually, because my friend gave it to me,” said Urbaniak.

She used the funds she received as seed money to jumpstart the Warm Hugs Outreach Ministry and brought her idea to friends at the church.

“They said, ‘We can make these,’ and we started getting together. It has grown since then,” Urbaniak said.

Warm Hugs are fleece shawls that committee members get together to make at the church at least once a month.

“They have pockets and we put goodies in the pockets,” she added.

Tissues, hand sanitizer, lip balm, hard candy, a cross and a card from the church are some of the items members of the congregation donate to bring joy and comfort to recipients.

They distribute them to a variety of venues including chemotherapy and radiation centers, nursing homes, and anyone in the congregation can take them to someone who needs to know consolation.

“We’ve given away more than 1,600. We make 35 to 50 at a time. People bring in their portable sewing machines to do the simple stitching, and others cut and assemble.”

Urbaniak and her committee are hoping to raise $2,500 at the auction so they can purchase a year’s worth of fleece.

Attendees are also asked to bring a gift or two, wrapped or unwrapped, baskets or gift certificates, to be auctioned off. Door prizes of three $100 bills will be awarded.

“We want to make sure we are doing ministries that are significant for our community,” Urbaniak said.

For more information, call the church 570-587-3206 or Urbaniak at 570-955-9381.

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