Two and a half years ago, Lila White of Calvary Lutheran Church, Elgin read an article about tiny socks, diapers, car carriers, and a church not far from her own community providing them cost-free to families in need.
The Lord had already been working in the kindergarten and after-school care teacher’s heart, so upon reading the article, White knew she had found her next step as well as her vocation. This past Saturday, November 11, Swaddling Clothes, Elgin, a clothes closet co-op, was open for its third “shopping day.”
The pivotal article White read was about Swaddling Clothes, Channahon, which had already been in existence for several years. Rev. Hans and Katie Fiene began the co-op at their church, River of Life Lutheran in Channahon with a mission “to share the mercy of Christ with [their] neighbors through the gifts of clothing, food, friendship, and the forgiving Word of God.”
A room at River of Life is fully stocked with maternity clothing, preemie though toddler clothing, diapers, wipes, bottles, and other pregnancy/motherhood items. More than that, it is a space for families to come get what they need at no cost; as Swaddling Clothes is a co-op, families are simply requested to re-donate their items once they’re finished using them, if possible.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger….” Swaddling Clothes gained its name from Luke 2:7. Jesus too was an embryo who grew to a tiny baby whose swaddled comfort would have brought peace to Mary and Joseph in the midst of a time of uncertainty. Similarly, the gifts offered at Swaddling Clothes can bring some peace to moms and dads today.
At Swaddling Clothes, they believe, as Christians and advocates for life, they have a responsibility to care for their neighbors – physically, mentally, and spiritually. In addition to providing physical goods, Swaddling Clothes seeks to meet these needs by building relationships with the families who shop at their co-op. These relationships allow Swaddling Clothes helpers to offer families referrals to some of the counseling, health care, and employment partnerships they have. Further, as part of a Lutheran congregation, pastoral care, and “words of the Lord, which can never be taken away” are always readily available.
The Fiene’s have now helped ten other LCMS congregations from Texas to Colorado create a branch of Swaddling Clothes, including the one White worked to begin right here in the Northern Illinois District at Calvary, Elgin.
With funds raised by Calvary’s congregation through Thrivent Choice Dollars, generous donations from the community, Katie Fiene’s carload of items from Swaddling Clothes, Channahon, and the items White purchased at Gooodwill stores, on September 9, Calvary hosted their first “shopping day.” The co-op is open the second Saturday of each month for families in need to come choose items anytime from 9am-noon.
White has visited crisis pregnancy centers in her area with a brochure which not only advertises the times Swaddling Clothes is open, but shares encouraging words of hope, rejoices in the Gospel, and invites families into community at Calvary, Elgin.
For White, Swaddling Clothes isn’t work at all. She is excited for the future as she envisions “a building housing this ministry.”