UR Special Ministries
The shy 4-year-old stares at the beautiful dresses. It is hard to choose one. Some of the pressed, new outfits have lace, ribbons or bows, some have eyelet collars or puff sleeves. She asks for her favorite color — pink. Her eyes twinkle when she sees five of them. She finally picks the third one. Then the child is led down a row to choose underwear, socks and shoes. Her outfit matches the sweetness of her smile.
UR Special Ministries began in 1993. This shopping spree for children happens three times a year. The next distribution will be “Spring Day” on April 7-8, the weekend before Easter. There is a “Back to School Day” and a “Winter Day” near Christmas. Children ages 3 through 9, along with their parents, line up outside the store-like display of clothing and shoes. Papers must be filled out to verify low income, but most children come from the Head Start program, which pre-qualifies them. Once a child is accepted into the program, all the children in the family can attend. The children must live in Edmond. From 500 to 550 children participate.
Boys get brand-new shoes purchased from Rack Room Shoes. Then they choose jeans, underwear, socks and a shirt, or maybe two shirts, depending on availability.
Sometimes they receive an extra treat, like an art kit or backpack. And in winter they receive a new coat, gloves and a hat, if available.
The clothing program has no paid staff, but receives a Community Development Block Grant. Many people are needed for the program to work, like the Edmond Women’s Club, which purchased the boy’s shoes. At least 50 volunteers are needed on distribution day, taking three-hour shifts. Linda King, a co-founder, helps with distributing the clothes and notifying parents who have children in the Hope Centers and Head Start Programs. Several mothers even volunteer on distribution day.
Seamstresses tailor-make the girl’s beautiful dresses. Bolts of cloth, jars of buttons, displays of colored thread and lace are displayed in the designer room. Many local churches have volunteers involved. Memorial Church of Christ has about 10 women who sew dresses and women at First Christian Church make 30-40 dresses every distribution, also sewing warm flannel nightgowns. Days Spring Church makes donations and Edmond Church of Christ purchased the coats last winter.
Claudette Dills, president and a co-founder of UR Special Ministries, is the overseer and one of four dress designers. Seamstresses come to the Designer Room and pick up a pattern and package, which includes all the necessary material and accessories — zippers, snaps, hook and eyes. Two dresses are made from the same pattern, from size 3 to size 18. Most fabric is donated, and some seamstresses design their own dresses. Skirts and tops or jackets are available along with jumpers and simple A-lines. The designers try to stay up with current fashions.
On the big day, excitement follows the little girl with the pink dress. The children behind her watch. Some girls want yards of frills and lace; other just want a simple design. A seamstress is available to hem or adjust the clothing if necessary. Boys search for just the right shirt or pullover. All the designer dresses have labels that read “For You Because UR Special.” The mission of the program is to raise self-esteem. Each child receives first-rate treatment.
“We do get paid,” Dills said. “We’re paid in smiles, and every time a little child comes and gives us a big hug of appreciation.”
UR Special Ministries can always use help, especially talented seamstresses and volunteers with friendly faces. Call Claudette Dills at 341-1281.