Mission grows beyond coats for childrenFor Florence Scherbenske, a member of First United Methodist Church, the mission started with coats for children. She said a speaker from the Pine Ridge Reservation at a 2008 conference meeting of Methodist women shared the plight of children on Indian reservations in the Dakotas who lacked coats. It wasn’t only dealing with the cold that was a problem.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
For Florence Scherbenske, a member of First United Methodist Church, the mission started with coats for children.
She said a speaker from the Pine Ridge Reservation at a 2008 conference meeting of Methodist women shared the plight of children on Indian reservations in the Dakotas who lacked coats. It wasn’t only dealing with the cold that was a problem.
“Children couldn’t get on the bus to go to school without a coat,” Scherbenske said. “Not only did they lose a day of school, they didn’t get two hot meals.”
She started with the idea of gathering coats at rummage sales, but “that was too labor intensive.” Instead, she connected with the Salvation Army and its thrift store in Jamestown. The thrift store periodically moves clothing off the floor and into recycle bins.
“Only so much can go on the racks,” said Maj. Harold Baugh, interim co-administrator of the Salvation Army. “And we have an agreement with the local recycler.”
Scherbenske found a treasure trove at the thrift shop. The connection allowed her and fellow First United Methodist Church women, Irene Walch and Dorothy Chouinard, to expand their mission. Now, along with coats, bags of clothing for all ages and bedding go to the Tree of Life Center in Mission, S.D., on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.
“The Salvation Army is making this possible,” Scherbenske said. “We’re so grateful to them. They are very kind, very helpful and very supportive of our project.”
Her church has also been helpful and supportive. The Rev. Kenrad Pederson, pastor of First United Methodist Church, said the third vanload of clothing and bedding is going off to Tree of Life this week. Each vanload has about 65 garbage bags filled with clothing and bedding. Hundreds of pairs of jeans, sweats, children and adult clothing, bedding and other miscellaneous items have made the trip.
“Tree of Life will take everything we bring,” Pederson said. “They have a warehouse and plenty of room. There’s a great need on the reservations.”
The church is sponsoring the mission and the Salvation Army supports it.
“We’re glad to partner with them on this,” Baugh said. “It gives us an opportunity to help — to share our resources where there’s a need.”
Scherbenske, Walch and Chouinard sort the clothes they find at the thrift store and make sure they’re clean and in good shape. Chouinard stores them in her garage until it’s time to load the van to haul them to the Tree of Life Center. The round trip is 767 miles, Pederson said.
“What we really need now is donations toward the gas,” he said. “We’re maxed out on what we can handle in clothing and bedding.”
For Scherbenske, this is a way to help and use what others have donated to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. She said as a child of first generation immigrants, everything was used until it was in shreds. Most of the clothing they’ve gotten through the thrift store is barely used, she said. It pleases her to see the items go to those who need them.
“About 80 percent of the clothing that’s donated to the thrift store is in very good shape,” Baugh said.
The mission that grew out of Scherbenske’s interest pleases all of those involved.
“It’s a wise use of resources that otherwise would be recycled,” Pederson said.
A world traveler, Scherbenske said she’s “seen tremendous need all over the world.” This need is much closer to home.
“‘Native Americans are now the least, the last and the lost,’” she quoted. She said she couldn’t remember the source of the quote.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com