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People helping people -- that's what it's all about at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Garden City, where a group of about 15 women come together weekly for crafting with one purpose in mind -- helping those in the community who are either less fortunate, in the hospital, or grieving and "needing something to comfort them."

Cindy Portis of Plymouth is the Christian service coordinator for the parish, which puts her "in charge of all the outreach programming," including the Hands to Heart Handiwork Ministry.

"I started here in 2011 as the Pastoral Associate handling Christian Service Outreach. At that time, I started a blanket ministry group. Our parishes, St. Dunstan and St. Raphael, merged as one parish in 2014," explained Portis. " At that time, our parish name became St. Thomas the Apostle. Our Catholic School closed in June 2016, and my office moved over to the school building. We renamed it the Ministries Center, and this is where our group meets (to knit, crochet and sew).

 

"Father Simeon (Iber) wanted the building to become a community outreach building, and he wanted the classrooms turned into those (crafting) studios. Also, he wants us to teach sustainable skills so that people have a way to help themselves by making money. 

Word about the ministry is spread through the church paper, and also by people who know Portis. "This is the church I grew up in as a kid. I went to school here, and I have worked at this vicariate for 31 years," said Portis, who until last year, lived just four blocks from the church. "Through my custom-embroidery and sewing, people who know me through that, have come in and worked on projects."

Members meet every Wednesday at the church (31530 Beechwood), year-round, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. "Anyone can come, and even if you don't know how to knit, sew or crochet, we can teach them. We've taught only a handful, but Father wants me to get the word out so more people will come. We (also) hope to start an evening group for those who work."  

"Anyone in the surrounding community can join," said Portis. You don't have to be Catholic -- you just have to have the desire to help others in the community."

Donations of sewing notions, new fabric and remnant pieces are always accepted. "We were donated eight rolls of quilted nylon that we used to make blankets for the homeless and donated them to a shelter in Detroit. We even take donations of sewing machines and sergers. We have eight sewing machines right now, but we have room for more."

Members of Hands to Heart Handiwork Ministry are not only willing to share their skills, but their space and equipment, as well. 

"We have a long-arm quilting machine in the building, and people are free to come in and work on that. Other sewing groups, from other churches and organizations, can come here. They can come anytime. It doesn't have to be on Wednesday," said Portis. "I'm in the building from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays."

Contact Hands to Heart Handiwork Ministry at cportis@thomastheapostle.org.  

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade. 

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