The countdown to Christmas is ticking down, but many local families don’t have the means to provide a happy holiday for their children. One Smithton woman has taken it upon herself to help those in need have a merry Christmas.
Frannie Albers has been a member of the Smithton Baptist Church for six years now, and two years ago God’s Closet was started by Albers, the pastor at the time, and a few ladies that attend the church. All the donated items are stored in the basement of the church, 206 Walnut Ave., and Albers and her volunteers spend long hours each week organizing, cleaning and distributing the items. The idea started when an event called “God’s Giveaway” was a huge success, and Albers wanted that success to continue.
“It went over so well, I kept it up,” she said. “I have a passion for helping people, and I don’t want to see anyone go without.
“I had girls contacting me to say they needed help providing for their kids, that they needed toys and that they didn’t care if they were good used or new. I thought I could help so many people by doing that.”
Since Albers continued the operation, she said she has had countless people come up to her with requests for various items. She said some of the most frequently requested items are refrigerators, beds, couches, baby items and dishes, but at this time of year, toys are one of the most popular.
The basement of the church has several rooms; one is lined with shelves filled with children’s items, with all the clothing arranged by size and gender. Another room houses furniture, housewares, adult clothes and other miscellaneous items. The third room is where Albers and her family have been spending the most time lately. It’s filled with toys and games, as if Santa set up shop right in the middle of Smithton.
On Thursday, Albers was joined by her daughter, Christina Smith, and her grandson, Josh Moore, both of Warrensburg. Albers mentioned her granddaughter and her friends helped out on Wednesday, joking that she “always drags someone out here.” While the operation is still in need of toys, or any items, the focus has shifted to matching the right gift with the right child. Albers called out what each child had requested, and Smith and Moore sifted through the piles of toys, with Albers giving out suggestions. All the toys are boxed up by family, and Albers said she hopes to send a roll of wrapping paper with each box so the parents can wrap their own presents.
Albers and Smith said they have about 40 requests for Christmas, and that the number is growing. Albers said they will unfortunately not be able to fulfill all the requests due to lack of items, but they will do what they can.
Even though they may run short, the community has been very generous to Albers’ project. She said a husband and wife recently donated a large amount of clothing, toys, cribs, walkers and bathtubs, along with a monetary donation to help with gas costs when Albers delivers the items.
“He came back the next day to check on us and said he was glad to see someone who loved to help people,” Albers said. “And then he donated even more stuff.”
Albers goes the extra mile by delivering items to those families who don’t have the means to get to the church. She said she has delivered to Cole Camp, Warrensburg, Stover and Versailles, “wherever someone needs something.” The project takes up a lot of her time, but it seems she doesn’t mind a bit, although her husband might.
“If you ask my husband, he says I’m never home,” Albers said with a laugh. “Yesterday (Wednesday) I was here from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.”
While Albers does collects and distributes the donations because of her “passion,” she and her family can also relate to those they are helping.
“We’ve been there. I needed help. My daughter’s been there and strangers helped her,” Albers said. “This is how we pay it forward. We’re paying back for the help we got.”
Not only does Albers sacrifice a lot of time, she also does all of this while battling several health issues, including two knee replacements, a bad back and fibromyalgia.
“It’s good to spend time with my mom. I know this is important to her,” Smith said. “She also has fibromyalgia, so we come to help her.”
“They come to do the heavy lifting, because they know if they’re not here I’ll do it myself,” Albers added.
Albers’ whole family is involved in the project by volunteering and donating, and they’re all clearly proud of the work they’re doing, but Smith is most proud of her mom.
“There are days when she can’t get out of bed, but she pushes herself to help everyone,” Smith said.
Albers and Smith said that they need more donations all year round, but that shelves and plastic tubs would be greatly appreciated to help store the large number of items they already have. Many of the current shelves are falling apart, and some are just makeshift shelves, such as one made out of a chair and a piece of wood.
To make a donation, or a request, contact Albers at 221-1055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.