ATWATER -- On a bright Tuesday morning at a small table covered with used clothing, the women of Mt. Olive Baptist Church got ready for a busy weekend.
The women were folding and inspecting clothing that will be part of the church's mission to help the community.
"This is one of the missions of the senior women in the church," said Helen Bey, while stacking a light blue shirt on top of other shirts.
Mt. Olive has been helping people in the Atwater area with clothing since 1989, when an Air Force wife who was a member of the church suggested giving out clothing.
"It wasn't as organized back then," recalled Freddie Braxton, a church member for 26 years.
The church also gives out food on certain days, and the members said they have seen a big jump in the need of the people they help.
"We are seeing 150 percent of the people we used to see, especially in the food program," Braxton said.
Members of the church give money to buy food from the local food bank, usually buying enough food for 100 people. The food is given out once a month. "Sometimes we get more people and we give them what we can and ask them to come back when we have more," Braxton said.
Pastor Roger Tyler has been at Mt. Olive for 30 years, ministering to the 135 people who make up the congregation.
"The Bible tells us to reach out to those in need," Tyler said. "Helping others is part of our mission."
Every second Wednesday of the month the church gives away food, and the donated clothing is passed out twice a year.
The church always needs donations of clothing from the community, along with any appliances or furniture people may want to donate.
Braxton said the funds for the food come from the congregation, but she added the church couldn't do the work they do without the help of the food bank. "I say glory to God for the bank," Braxton said. "They have helped us so much."
Tyler said he believes a church and its congregation should do as much as possible to help the community.
"If we don't do this, we're not doing what the Bible tells us to do," Tyler said.
And they've been doing what the Bible tells them for 21 years.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.