By Jessica Connor
ROCK HILL DISTRICT – Two years ago, a group of United Methodist women gathered for a School of Mission in Lancaster. Little did they know the event would change their lives forever.
The seven didn’t really know each other, but united in their love for Christ and a drive to do good works, they formed a fast bond.
That day, they became Women on a Mission, with a charge to use their talents and compassion to help others. Right now, they are focused on helping Wallace Family Life Center in Bennettsville. Once Wallace is on its feet, the women will turn their attention to another needy effort.
Today, their effort “has just grown and grown and grown,” said Darlene Hallman, member of Women on a Mission who attends Zion UMC, Lancaster.
From a backpack project to a Thanksgiving dinner to their latest and most significant endeavor, crocheted necklaces, the women pour themselves into serving others, all to benefit Wallace.
Those initial seven women multiplied, and now the group boasts more than a dozen from five Rock Hill District UMCs: El Bethel in Fort Lawn, and Church of the Good Shepherd, First, Lynnwood and Zion, all in Lancaster.
“We made a pact that night that we’d stay together and do mission work,” said Mary Lou Rose, another member of Women on a Mission. “We didn’t know what we were getting into!”
Crocheting for a cause
Women on a Mission’s main project is making crocheted necklaces to do repairs and construction at Wallace, which is a community center dedicated to serving families in the economically depressed area.
Located in one of the poorest areas in the state, Wallace offers a thriving after-school program, adult education, arts and crafts classes, a homemakers’ club, Boy and Girl Scouts, a 4-H Club, Youth Council and more.
But the building is sorely in need of repair, Hallman said. The air conditioning unit was recently stolen, walls were rotted and guttering is high on the priority list.
“Water is running down the wall in some places, and you can just put your finger in the wall and punch a hole in,” Hallman said.
“They are in such need right now,” Rose said. “They have nothing down there – so much poverty in that area.”
With an estimated $34,000 needed in repair costs, Women on a Mission began brainstorming in 2008 about something unique they could sell to help raise money for Wallace. After all, the Bethlehem Center in Spartanburg sells pins, Rural Missions has a shrimp festival and Killingsworth has a gala.
After much research and prayer, they stumbled upon a winner: crocheted necklaces. Woven of multi-colored yarn, the adjustable, feminine necklaces cost $5 apiece and have already raised $12,000 for Wallace.
The Women on a Mission combine their skills to create the necklaces, Hallman said. Some people buy the yarn, others cut the lengths and put them into little bags, and others do the actual crochet work.
“One woman can crochet 25 necklaces a day when she has the time,” Hallman marveled. “This has been beyond anything we could imagine.”
They sell them wherever they can: to local churches, at meetings and even through a booth at a Rock Hill craft show.
All about helping others
While they enjoy the Christian friendship Women on a Mission has spawned, the women say their hard work is all about serving those less fortunate.
“I believe in helping people who can’t physically help themselves, and this is one way I feel we can help humanity in God’s way,” Rose said. “We need to think of the other person always. No matter what denomination, what religion, if they’re in need, they need our help.”
For her part, Hallman is inspired by Wallace Executive Director Corina Esaw, whose devotion and commitment are contagious.
“Corina just bubbles when she talks about it, and we felt this call that we needed to help Wallace,” Hallman said. “We thought we could make a difference.”
As for Wallace, they are simply grateful for the assistance.
Jane Scott, chair of the Wallace board, said the center operates on $120,000 a year, which is what they can expect to get from United Methodist Women and from local churches. With an additional $34,000 in needed building repairs, she said, “There is just no way we could pay a fourth of that in repairs without help from groups like this. It would really be impossible.”
Scott said the surrounding community depends greatly on the center – a place neighbors can go to feel safe, loved and cared for. She deeply appreciates the work Women on a Mission are doing to help.
The Rev. Kathy James, congregational specialist, said Women on a Mission’s necklace project is a perfect illustration of God's faithfulness to us when we seek to respond to a need.
“I believe that God gives us what we need to do what God has called us to do,” James said. “What a testimony to how God works through us when we make ourselves available.”
For more information on Wallace, visit http://wflc.tripod.com or call 843-479-7991. To order an individual necklace, send a check for $5.50 (which includes shipping) payable to Darlene Hallman, 2434 Zion Road, Lancaster, SC 29720. Hallman will then send all proceeds to Wallace Family Life Center. To order multiple necklaces, contact Hallman at 803-246-2212.