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Shining Star: Cheryl Lawson

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In 2015, Cheryl Lawson, a pastor of the Church of the Nazarene in Martins Ferry, started a campaign to provide shoes to people in need in the community. She joined up with Funds2Orgs, which distributes funds for donated shoes to non-profits.

Since then, the church has dropped traditional services and now operates primarily as a compassionate ministry center, still helping people in need.

“We were asking for barely used shoes,” Cheryl said. “But apparently people thought that since we needed shoes, we needed clothes.”

Cheryl couldn’t say no. The church bought a washer and dryer and started giving clothing away. However, Cheryl noticed many people were reluctant or ashamed to take free clothes. A friend advised her to start charging 25 cents for items, and the church’s weekly clothing sale began.

“We’re helping people keep their dignity, but there are people who are really hurting,” Cheryl said.

The Church of the Nazarene is also a Mid-Ohio produce distribution center. On Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., people in need can go to the church for fresh produce and clothing at a very low cost.

Cheryl spends 50 to 60 hours each week volunteering and coordinating charitable outreach. This is on top of her duties as a foster mother. She and her husband, Don, have taken in children of all ages from four years old to teenagers.

She works with other area organizations, including the House of the Carpenter and the Winter Freeze Shelter in Wheeling to make sure clothing and shoes are going to the people who need them most. Cheryl also works to obtain other items that people need, such as baby items and furniture, and pays visits to area nursing homes to give clothes and shoes to residents.

People travel from not just Belmont County, but all over the Ohio Valley, to get help at the Church of the Nazarene. Cheryl and her weekly volunteers turn no one away.

“It’s what we’re supposed to do as Christians,” Cheryl said. “I believe that God is using us as his ministry.”

Cheryl also says no one is required to listen to a sermon or express interest in Christianity to receive help. However, the weekly distribution has become a service of sorts. Cheryl says a prayer list has been started, and many come to partake in the prayer before the distribution gets underway.

“Most of the people don’t know I’m a pastor,” she said.

As many as 70 families are now receiving help at the produce distribution, and many stay afterward for the clothing sale. All money made from the sale goes back into the church and its services. While they don’t do traditional sermons, there are still expenses, including electric bills, detergent for clothes and much more.

Cheryl says the church may reinstate traditional services somewhere down the line, but for now she feels she is doing as God intends.

“I just believe this is what God wants me to do,” she said. “I want to be a blessing to them, but really the people in this area are really great.”

At this point, Cheryl says she’s not sure if the church will offer Sunday sermons again. She does see the church’s small, one-shelf food pantry growing to meet the community’s needs.

“I think it’s going to continue to grow,” she said. “There may be some point in time, because of the government programs that may be cut, especially the food ministry I think may continue to grow. I think we may be doing even more.”

“I’d really like to thank the people in the community for their support and how they spread the word,” Cheryl said.

The Church of the Nazarene is located at 709 Broadway Street in Martins Ferry. Donations made to help the non-profit are tax deductible and appreciated greatly, according to Cheryl.

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