When Called to Do Good There is Only One Way to Respond
When you’ve been tasked with bringing a gift of warmth to children in need, it is nearly impossible to ignore. Denise Rasbid rose to the task at hand, and along with a team of church leaders and volunteers started a successful coat program that continues to grow each year.
“I first heard about Operation Warm from K-Love,” Rasbid, says. “It was the featured charity at the time.” Just listening to the announcement about how K-Love listeners could help kids in need grabbed at Rasbid’s spirit. She immediately saw how perfectly the mission of Operation Warm would fit in with another ministry her church was already doing. As the Domestic Outreach Leader for The Chapel Lake Zurich, Rasbid is part of the ministry team that runs a successful mobile food pantry as an outreach to her local community, located in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
“We host mobile food pantries anywhere from four to six times a year. Our clients leave us with a seven to ten days supply of food,” she says. “They have other needs, though. I thought supplying the children with brand-new warm winter coats would be a wonderful thing. I feel like it was God tapping me on the shoulder and saying, ‘You need to do this.’” Too excited to contain her idea any longer, Denise immediately called her pastor. “I think he almost drove off the road,” she said. “I told him I wanted to provide 1,000 coats to the mobile food pantry kids, and he said, ‘Really? Okay. Let’s do it!’” The program has received a lot of support, and in 2015, their third year doing the coat program, The Chapel Lake Zurich provided 1,600 kids with brand new winter coats.
Through an anonymous gift donation in 2015, the coats were accompanied by brand new hats and mittens. “It looked like the most beautiful array of Easter eggs laid out at our church,” she says. “We turned no one away, and it worked so beautifully.”
“A lot of the people who received coats were people we were already serving, but this has also helped us grow our outreach,” she says. “People who came to get coats then found about about the mobile food pantry, so we’ve grown our base of clients. Definitely, it also impacted people that didn’t know The Chapel Lake Zurich, and about the many ministries we provide.”
Being able to promote their other outreach mission was certainly an added bonus to the coat program, though the real goal was being able to serve those in the community who are in need. As a result of the vocalized appreciation on part of many, the coat program drew media attention. “The reporter walked in from the Lake Zurich Courier, a local newspaper.” Rasbid says. “She seemed hesitantly curious about the event,”
“She interviewed me before it started, and she wandered around and talked to some of the clients. There was a boy and his mother outside with four siblings, waiting for us to open the doors to give out coats. He was there outside in a short sleeve t-shirt in November. The reporter saw that he had his arms in his sleeves, as far as they would go. It was chilly, and he was shivering. She followed him until he got his coat and saw how he wanted his four siblings to be served first.”
“Then it was the boy’s turn to pick out his new coat, hat and gloves” she says. “The experience watching him receive his own coat was so moving. First the boy was shivering outside in the cold and then the look on his face zipping up his brand new coat was that of pure joy. It really reflected the mission and the purpose of Operation Warm. It truly is more than just a coat. And the reporter? She was truly inspired and touched by what she observed by the time she left.”
In addition to their own coat distribution, Rasbid and the leaders and volunteers from The Chapel Lake Zurich set aside additional coats, preassigning them to help other community organizations that work with families in need. “There are a couple of local school systems that we helped, in addition to several battered women and children’s shelters. We also provided coats to a group that serves refugees coming in to Chicago from all over the world,” she says. “They didn’t want any coats over size adult medium, because the refugees are often so malnourished, they don’t grow to be larger than a medium.” It was a way to expand the good they could do by supporting other services and programs outside of their church.
“The really great thing, Rasbid says, “The most exciting thing, is to see how it has changed and grown each year. It has truly been a privilege to be a part of executing this plan God put on my heart.”
Pastor Dave Thompson could not have agreed more. “Tears came when I drove away from the church one afternoon” he said. “I saw a boy joyfully hoping off the bus wearing an Operation Warm coat. Time froze for me. Here was our literal neighbor, a young guy so full of life,” he says.