Associate Pastor Margaret Ann Jessup was sitting outside Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois, when two wooden chairs at the antique store across the street caught her attention-she started to wonder if there was a way to use those chairs to help women.
Jessup came up with a plan; Offer women in need a transitional employment opportunity refurbishing old furniture. She researched how to refinish pieces in colorful, chalk painted style and looked at various nonprofit business plans, then jumped in head first calling the ministry, “Wooden It Be Lovely.”
Douglas Avenue, with a regular attendance of 170, “was gracious to take the risk of hiring women who are in and out of prison or recovering from drug addictions, and (invite) them into our church to work alongside us every day,” Jessup explains.
The women employed by Wooden It Be Lovely refurbish pieces to be sold online and at sales events, but what’s more important, Jessup says, is that they are empowered to see who they were created to be and what their potential is.
Because of the ministry, several women have been able to save money, buy cars, get their driver’s licenses and move on the regular full-time employment. Two women are making plans to continue working for the ministry while putting themselves through nursing school, and several others now attend the church.
Jessup says that while transformational employment is the main goal of the ministry, the best part is seeing how the women respond to being loved and respected, and how their outlook changes because of it.
“You have women who are personally, financially and spiritually successful working beside women who have little self-esteem. And everyone looks the same in their old, yucky clothes,” she says. “That is, to me, the most beautiful part.”
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