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Church adopts ‘dresser ministry’ to help new parents
LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by John Gordon

Gracie Ruth and Colton James Wheeler were born prematurely May 29.

July 25, 2005

By John Gordon*

LE MARS, Iowa (UMNS) — Like many young couples, Brad and Melody Wheeler wondered about making ends meet as they started their family with not one addition but two.

But a ministry launched by a nearby United Methodist church gave the Wheelers and their twins a head start by donating a dresser filled with many of the items their children will need in their first year.

“It was sent from God,” said Brad Wheeler. “I think it’s the biggest blessing we’ve had so far.”

Gracie Ruth and Colton James Wheeler were born prematurely May 29, after Melody Wheeler went through a difficult pregnancy. They spent several weeks in a hospital’s intensive-care unit before returning home to Sioux City.

”It was really scary,” she recalled. “Any parent who goes through that with just one child, but having two of them in there, that was extra hard.”

Soon after the twins got out of the hospital, members of the United Methodist Church of Le Mars showed up to deliver a dresser filled with blankets and clothes, diapers and other baby essentials.

“We had a rough go of it in the beginning, you know, because I’m 20 and she’s going to be 18,” said Brad Wheeler. “But we got through it, and we’re still getting through it.”

Brad holds a full-time job cleaning cars at a rental agency and works part time in the meat department at a supermarket.

The church started the ministry to help families meet the costs of raising their children in the first year. Other churches — in a variety of faith traditions — have been providing similar ministries for more than 10 years.

“Just the diapers and formula and that kind of thing alone, without even putting clothing on children, is very costly” said Cristi Bauerly, who heads the dresser ministry at the church.

“It can be very overwhelming for people, if they are just struggling day to day to meet their needs,” she said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by John Gordon

Members of the United Methodist Church of Le Mars (Iowa) deliver a dresser filled with baby supplies for the twins born to Brad and Melody Wheeler.

Church members originally packed the dresser for one child. When they learned they were helping twins, members donated additional items for both. The dresser also includes a book on caring for children, a mother’s devotional Bible and Bibles for the children.

The Wheelers and the church were brought together by the Alpha Center, a pro-life pregnancy resource center in Sioux City. The head of the agency, Deb Sypersma, said offers of help can make a difference for young mothers trying to decide whether to keep their children.

“So many people that we have talked to who have had abortions in the past will say, ‘if only one person would have said to me, “I’ll help you”’ — whether it’s financially, materially, babysitting, praying for her — that they would have chosen a different path,” she said.

Sypersma said the ministry will help fill a big need in the community.

“We get calls on a daily basis from moms who don’t have any diapers, they don’t have any formula, and it’s just heartbreaking,” she said.

The church hopes to fill four dressers per year and donate them to area families.

“We don’t do a lot of ministry, I think, as a church as a whole for single moms or moms in general,” said the Rev. Jason Larson, the church’s associate pastor. “So this is a really nice addition.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by John Gordon

New parents Brad and Melody Wheeler call the gift of a dresser and baby supplies "the biggest blessing we've had."

Melody Wheeler is now a full-time mom but plans to continue her education in the future.

“I want to go to college after they get a little older,” she said, “so that we can have a better life.”

In the meantime, she is grateful for the help her family received from the church.

“We really needed the dresser, and it’s such a nice dresser—and all the stuff in it, too,” she said.

Bauerly hopes the ministry will continue providing a financial boost—and hope—to young families.

“There are a lot of people that really care and have a lot of love to share.”

*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or

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