In February 2007, the United Methodist Women’s Mission Circle of Maples Memorial United Methodist Church in Olive Branch embarked on an unusual outreach project. The “knitters” of the group began meeting on Sunday afternoons to create “bears” to send all over the world to comfort children.
During 2007, the group sent 130 bears to kids in need of a friend and has already sent out 67 this year.
They use one pattern, but add their own special touches to make each bear unique. Each bear is named by its creator and as they knit, they pray for the child that will receive the handiwork.
The mission work is patterned after a Minnesota-based organization that sends handmade bears mainly to Africa to children affected by the HIV/Aids epidemic.
The Maples women decided to give bears to House of Grace, an abused women’s shelter; Palmer House for Children; the local police precincts to give to children in domestic violence situations; Angel Tree, and 20 were recently sent to India.
The bears that went to India were sent by a missionary who visited the church. In that shipment, the women attached a personal note and a photo of themselves. They received word of how much the needy children enjoyed seeing the face of someone who loved them enough to knit a bear for them. A Maples church member took 33 bears with her on last year’s mission trip to Nicaragua.
The women have also knitted caps and lap blankets for patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Each newborn at Maples receives a pink or blue bear from the women; they are getting ready for the triplets that will be born into their church family this summer.
The knitting sessions are open to all in the church and the community and have attracted women of all ages.
For information, call the Maples office at 662-893-2279.