The clothes we wear change the way we feel about ourselves.

But when students in Bradford return to school on Aug. 27, many of them won’t be able to take part in the custom of showing off a brand-new, first-day-of-school outfit. On a day when children are seeing their classmates for the first time in three months, that can feel quite embarrassing.

Open Arms Church of Bradford wants to help.

The church plans to take at least 25 less fortunate children on a shopping trip to Walmart in Foster Township. Each one will get $100 worth of new clothes.

“We just saw a need,” said Open Arms Assistant Pastor Dan Williams, who talked about recently seeing a couple of children after they went on an unexpected back-to-school shopping trip.

“I saw a difference in their demeanor and their spirit when they knew they were going to have new clothes to wear,” he said, adding, “All of a sudden, their self-esteem went up a notch.”

Williams said many volunteers have gotten on board to help see the project happen.

“We are building a team that wants to help that person and bring a smile, lessen a burden through an intentional act of kindness,” he explained.

Church and community members immediately embraced the idea, Williams said, explaining that a couple dozen people volunteered as soon as they heard about the project.

Williams is excited the project will “let people know that when God told us to love our neighbors, we took it seriously at Open Arms.”

The response from the community demonstrates the need, too.

“In a day’s time, we have received 18 applications with multiple children in need of school clothing, and many more applications are expected to come in,” said Alex Davis, Open Arms connections coordinator. He noted the application deadline is Aug 21.

“The stories these parents are sharing cut right to the heart,” Daivs said of the applications. “We want to be a blessing to area children who would never be able to get brand-new clothing for school. This will boost their confidence. And this will be a major God-send to the parents. This is all about showing God’s love.”

Organizers are seeking assistance from the community in locating potential children and parents for the program. Williams described potential candidates.

“Do you know someone who will have to decide between groceries and back to school clothes? Or maybe there is no question...they simply cannot afford to buy school clothes. Maybe not the friend who has a $75 a month cell phone bill....more like that friend who would never even think of asking for help,” Williams said. “That friend who seems to work so hard but can never quite get caught up on bills.”

Organizers know they will not be able to help everyone they want, so potential participants will start by submitting a short application.

“We are also glad to accept your donation to help one more child get school clothes,” organizers said. “Any donation amount will be a blessing.”

An application is available at https://onechurch.page.link/5cM4

For additional information on the back-to-school program, contact Davis at alex@oachurch.com.

This is just the latest mission-type project the active church will have this year.

The church’s outreach programs this year have included giving away copies of locally written book “Greater Than,” hosting a public Easter service and helping with two Easter egg hunts, hosting a Summer Bash, holding a picnic for veterans for Memorial Day and hosting summertime small group programs across the area.

The back-to-school program will be just one more way Open Arms reaches out to the community in 2019.

“Open Arms is very missionally driven,” said Davis. “We are about loving God and loving people. And this project is just one way to do that.”

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