MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 27, 2013

Bearing gifts — Church ministry provides security for children

By E.I. Hillin
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Fluffy piles of teddy bear stuffing and different patterns of material cover a table in a bright room at Chandler Road Church of Christ.

Inside you’ll find four women laughing warmly and stuffing teddy bears that will be given to children to hold onto when they feel scared in the hospital.  

“It’s a ministry we do for children when they are at their lowest,” said Rhonda Frasier.

Each bear given out at local hospitals by the “Bear Ministry” has been sewn, painted, stuffed, and labeled, “Made With Love.”

Frasier has witnessed first-hand the effect that the bears have on the children.  

They were “hanging on to them for dear life,” Frasier said. “It’s something they cling to, it’s a security blanket.”

Jane Jordan recalled a time when her grandchildren received the bears.

“It did a lot of good,” Jordan said.

Her grandson was around 4, now he is 13.  

“They still have them,” Jordan said.

For more than 20 years women involved in the Bear Ministry have come and gone, but the mission has been the same.

“They give the kids something to hold on to when they are scared in the hospital,” said Chandler Road Church of Christ pastor Donnie Branscum.

Rhonda Frasier has been involved in the ministry since 2006.

She estimates that one bear takes around one hour to complete. She delivered 167 bears to EASTAR Health System and Three Rivers Health Center last week.

Today, the ministry faces a new challenge providing that security for the children.

“Right now I have a tub full of bears ready to be sewn together,” Frasier said. “Our numbers are getting low. Sewing is a lost art.”

Many women involved in the Bear Ministry have moved out of the area or died.

Some women, such as Pat Myers, have been making bears for more than 16 years.

“I love the thought that it comforts children,” Myers said.

“So many of our women are working ... the sewing gets done at home,” said Toppy Vandiver, a longtime member of the ministry.

“Everybody has their job,” said Barbara Bebee, a participant in the ministry.

Last year, 800 bears were delivered to EASTAR Main Campus, and 400 were delivered to Three Rivers Health Center.

“They just want to show their love,” said Andrea Wilcoxen, head of volunteer services at EASTAR Health System.

Each step in the process of cutting, labeling, painting, sewing, stuffing and delivering the bears has been the way for the women to show their love.

The group meets on the last Wednesday of each month at the Chandler Road Church of Christ.  

Donations of time or funding for materials, stuffing, and thread are appreciated.    

“We are not going to turn away anybody that wants to help,” Frasier said.

“This is just such a little thing and while we are enjoying doing it, we are doing the Lord’s work,” Vandiver said.

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or ehillin@muskogeephoenix.com.

You can help

The Chandler Road Church of Christ “Bear Ministry” appreciates any donation of time or funding for materials, stuffing, and thread. Contact: Rhonda Frasier, (918) 686-0006.