During the Sunday morning service at McLeod Memorial Presbyterian Church in Bartow, the McLeod Prayer Shawl Ministry dedicated thirty afghans which they plan to send to a residential center for homeless women veterans. They spent the summer and autumn making these colorful testaments to hope and new beginnings. Each member made individual granny squares of the brightest and happiest colors they could find, which were assembled into rectangles with white yarn, and then bordered creatively in scallops, chains, or solid stitches. So each afghan represented a well-woven group effort. Other new afghans were donated by members who bought them at local thrift stores, garage sales, and antique shops. The afghans were displayed across the choir divider, along the backs of two rows of pews, and down the front of the presbytery pulpit.
Evelyn Rainey, the groupís facilitator, gave a brief history of the Prayer Shawl Ministry at McLeod, which meets every other Tuesday evening. Members crochet and knit items to be donated to various causes: baby items for the Lakeland Teen Parent Center, caps for adjudicated teens at Avon Park Youth Academy, shawls for church members and their friends and relatives as well as strangers who are going through times of difficulty and distress, and shawls sent through the Prayer Shawls for Fallen Soldiers organization. In the two years since they formed, this group has given over ninety-five shawls, three-hundred-thirty caps, and hand-crafted toys, blankets, and baby caps and other items. Half of the members belong to McLeod Presbyterian Church; the others belong to various churches and spiritual paths. Some knit, some crochet, some quilt. They all have the joy of hand-crafting things of beauty in common. That joy is not complete until they give these items to those in most need of them.
The nine members of the McLeod Prayer Shawl Ministry saw another opportunity to help when they heard last June that twelve thousand veteran women are homeless. In the US, there are about three hundred residential centers that are set up to house, feed, and educate female and male veterans. There are only fifteen that are specifically dedicated to helping (only) women veterans. The Mary E. Walker House is one of those. Situated in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, the women who reside there must make a commitment to turn away from habits and lifestyles which led them to their current difficulties. In return, the Mary E. Walker House provides an environment developed to empower the veteran, to encourage the veteran to re-establish connections with others, and to assist the veteran in developing and mastering effective and healthy coping skills.
Reverend Richard Huggins led the church in a prayer of dedication for the afghans and for the women veterans who would receive them. Donations were accepted to help with the cost of shipping.
McLeod Prayer Shawl Ministry members include Denise Buchanan, Nancy Heckert, Cathy Lerner, Gayle Lyon, Eda Marchman, Evelyn Rainey, Marion Rainey, Nancy Todd, Gloria Warren.