A woman named Tabitha is reported to have lived in Jappa 2,017 years ago.
According to Acts 9:36, she “was always doing good and helping the poor.”
“She sewed clothes and gave food to orphans and widows,” explained Rachel Austin, director of Tabitha’s Thread ministry in Weeping Water. "She was one of the only women in the entire Bible called a disciple.”
And so, when Rachel’s daughter Hannah-Rose wanted to do something to help girls attending the eighth-grade camp she was participating in six years ago, she was following in Tabitha's footsteps without knowing it.
Some of the girls didn’t have toothbrushes, toothpaste and bedding. Hannah-Rose brought their needs to the attention of fellow Weeping Water Faith Missionary Church members, who with her help made sure the needs of these girls were met.
“We started with two plastic totes. Some were things from Hannah-Rose’s room. We started talking to other people in the community and church about giving things to the girl’s in our community,” Rachel said.
From this effort, the first seeds of Tabitha’s Thread were planted. When the Lighthouse building became available on Eldora Avenue in downtown Weeping Water, the seed had grown into a 501c3 organization with 30-40 volunteers and six people in what Rachel described as the “core group.”
Today, Tabitha’s Threads' volunteers oversee a food pantry that distributes 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of foods to families in need every year. The food is made available through Food Bank of the Heartland in Omaha.
The food pantry is open from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. every second Friday of the month. “We have 140 families who receive food from the pantry and that represents 500 people,” Rachel said.
Volunteers also take food and supplies to the home-bound throughout Cass County.
“We make 47 deliveries a month and take food to people who don’t have a way to get here, are working when the pantry is open or are disabled," Rachel said.
Keeping people fed, however, is only one concern. Children are Tabitha’s Thread’s top priority. Volunteers work on three campaigns throughout the year, one in the summer, another project for back to school and the third during the holidays.
“We are working on the Great Wrap Up now. We provide 10 basics to deserving kids in Cass County and beyond. Items include shampoo, toothpaste, deodorants, jeans, a T-shirt, socks and pajamas. They also a 'sprinkle,' a fun item," she said.
Sprinkles can be brushes, combs, nail polish, manicure sets, a matchbox car or necklace. In the summer it might be beach balls or pool toys.
“We like to have kids fit in. If children in the community are going to the pool and there are kids who can’t afford a bathing suit, towel and pool pass, we provide those items. In this small community, the pool is the place to be in the summer,” Rachel said. “We never give anything that hasn’t been washed or dried. Nothing goes out that is missing buttons or zippers or is stained.”
Once they identify the children in need, volunteers meet with parents and guardians to learn sizes and color preferences. Volunteers shop items during the off season. Rachel said they buy cartloads of marked-down shoes at area box stores at the end of a season.
“We will have given around 1,700 items away by Dec. 8,” she said. “They will be packaged and wrapped, or guardians and parents sometimes like to wrap their own. Others want us to do it for them.”
Currently, Tabitha’s Thread is working with a local hairdresser who is providing 20 haircuts for families and their children.
They also put together what they call blessing baskets, which include toilet paper, laundry soap, Windex and Comet, all placed in a new laundry basket. “We give those to 20 families at Christmas time,” she said.
The organization has a goal for setting up a dentistry event this spring. “We are partnering with several dentists in Lincoln and here to do basic checkups and cleaning,” she said.
Rachel stressed that Faith Missionary Church and Tabitha’s Threads' volunteers are not the only ones involved in supplying the needs.
“We work with lots of people,” she said. “There are many hands that make this go. Heaven’s Closet, Under His Wings, PCF, the Masons, Creative Edge, Holy Stitchers, and Wade Insurance are just a few."
During Come Home for Christmas, Tabitha’s Thread held its annual Sip and Shop. “It’s a fund-raiser for operating costs,” she said.
People purchase a variety of donated items or chances on winning others. The funds are used to purchase the much-needed items.
“Our biggest need is diapers, wipes and baby supplies,” she said.
Rachel said those involved in Tabitha’s Thread feel honored to do the work in Christ’s name. “We feel honored to be able to encourage kids. We all needed it when we were young. We all talk about the organizations that put food on the table and helped us. We thank all the people who donate to this event and drive here for Sip and Shop. I think the event is growing. People like to see the place in action.”