From about 10 months, volunteers managed to keep a charitable group called Shepherd’s Cloak operating at a vacant church in Watertown.

It provides clothing, household goods and toys to local families free of charge. The organization was founded at Bethany United Methodist Church, 214 W. Lynde St., in 2004.

The church closed in October 2018 after 127 years. But those behind Shepherd’s Cloak remained there to continue offering their services.

In August, however, they had to leave the empty church. For a time, they collected and dispensed items in the church’s parking lot. They couldn’t find a new place to call home.

“It’s going to be sad that it’s not here, and it’s sad that the community has not stepped up to say this is something Jesus would do and take it in,” Christine Orr, an organizer for Shepherd’s Cloak, said in a story published Aug. 8 by WWNY-TV/7 News. “And like I said, we have the volunteers to work it. It’s just we need a place to put a box, and we need a place to sort.”

Fortunately, their prayers have been answered. The group’s organizers now operate out of The Rock Church, 22088 Route 11 in Seaway Plaza. The Revs. Sabrina and Myron Jamerson, pastors of the church, offered Shepherd’s Cloak the opportunity to join them in a shared ministry.

“For the past five years, The Rock Church has hosted A Day in the Community at its location at Seaway Plaza,” according to a story published Jan. 22 by the Watertown Daily Times. “All things at the event — from clothing and furniture to blood pressure readings and haircuts — are free. The events have allowed parents to obtain school clothes for their children and for others to furnish their apartments.”

Organizers of A Day in the Community found there is a real need for this service. The event held last year drew hundreds of people.

“The church, located in the Seaway Plaza off Route 11, hosted its fifth annual Day in the Community event to give away furniture, books, cookware, tableware, bedding, clothes, shoes and other goods provided by residents and organizations,” an Aug. 4 article in the Times reported. “Attendees could also have their hair cut, blood pressure read and register to vote. Several nonprofits, including the Watertown Urban Mission and Credo Community Center, also attended to share information about their services.”

By providing Shepherd’s Cloak its own space, The Rock Church can now give items to community residents for free more than once a year. The charity has changed its name to Rock Closet — In the Community for the Community. People will now be able to take advantage of goods available there.

The grand opening will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. The church has already opened the store a few times, and the response has been incredible.

Pam Bowman and Lynn Lawler, who volunteered their time at Shepherd’s Cloak, will continue to serve people at Rock Closet. Individuals wishing to donate items may do so from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays. The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays.

This is an excellent outcome to the situation that Shepherd’s Cloak confronted. By combining resources, both the charity and church have been able to fill their needs. We commend everyone involved in creating this new venture and wish them well in providing this vital service.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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