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College Park clothing swap huge success

College Park clothing swap huge success

Leadership Lifestyle
In the truck, left is Stephanie Bowman from One Heart for Children and Women, right is Merrill Frailey.

What began years back as a clothing and accessory exchange between girlfriends has turned into a hugely successful church activity that touches its pre-school teachers, congregation and the surrounding community.

College Park United Methodist Church in Orlando recently held the swap for a second year.

Pastor Merrill Frailey got the idea from a group she previously had part of that met twice a year swapped various clothing items.

College Park UMC volunteers Amy Cook, left and Lynette Gray worked to organize a clothing swap at their church which benefitted the teachers at the church's pre-school, church members and people from the surrounding community.

“We did dresses, accessories, shoes, everything you can possibly imagine,” Frailey said.

Four years ago, she was assigned to be the minister at the church in the heart of Orlando. She decided to bring the swap to the church.

“We have a pre-school at the church with 35-40 teachers, so we decided to let them benefit from the swap,” Frailey said. “They are all pretty great teachers, but they don’t have a lot.”

The teachers were thrilled to go in and pick whatever they wanted at no cost.

Some items, Frailey said, still had the tags on them.

“This past year, I pulled two women from our church who were new members, and I asked them if they would like to run it,” Frailey said. “One of them was from my girls’ group, and the other was just a new church member.”

The congregation, which ranges from 130-200 on a Sunday morning and up to 60 in the evening, also was asked to participate. Members brought items to swap for free.

“They set it up, and we opened it first to our teachers, and they came through and took whatever, with no limit. Then, on Sunday, both services came through, and they took what they wanted,” Frailey said.

The small congregation is diverse, with rich and poor, gay and straight, young and old, homeless and those with homes.

 “The Holy Spirit is moving and transforming this sweet little church,” Frailey said.

With rows and rows of gently used clothing, men’s suits, dresses, costume jewelry and more, the church opened the swap to the teachers a second time.

“We had a ton of clothes left, and there is a nonprofit here called One Heart for Women and Children, and it is a ministry run by Stephanie Bowman. She is a recovering addict,” Frailey said. “She came and picked up all the clothes in a huge trailer. She was shocked.”

The church’s theme for the year, Frailey said, is Love Big.

“We are like the little engine that could,” she said. “Love our neighbors, love ourselves, love God big. We even have T-shirts and bumper stickers. It’s real powerful.”

—Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer in Valrico