January 17, 2014

Welcome Threads: Sharing Wisdom and Talent from the Streets

The Welcome Church, a church without walls ministering with people experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia, has started a social enterprise known as Welcome Threads that builds community, teaches job skills and provides participants with some income.

“The main thing people want is a purpose,” said Pastor Violet Little, lead pastor of Welcome Church. “They want to believe they have something to offer.”

The enterprise is a partnership with Ready to Hand – Saori Philadelphia, a local textile gallery and studio.

Members of the Welcome Church started gathering each Tuesday at Leslie Sudock’s Ready to Hand studio to learn t-shirt silk screen printing.

ThreadsCollage.jpg

Currently the group has developed several “Welcome Thoughts” designs for the t-shirts based on “the wisdom of the streets,. They include: Stop Staring, Start Caring; Be Loved; and When are My 40 Years Up? — the latter reference to the 40-year wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness.  The Welcome Church Facebook page reports that in December the group netted $350 in sales at a local church.

40YearsbSudock, a lawyer and homeless advocate, is also teaching the group Saori weaving techniques.

“Saori weaving is very community focused and is based on the idea that everyone can be a teacher and a learner,” said Sudock. “You see the world through shining eyes and look at ‘mistakes’ as opportunities. A blob becomes an element of the weaving rather than an error. It becomes an appreciation of the surprising and the irregular.”

The group of six that typically meets at Sudock’s studio is beginning with weaving scarves and hopes to eventually make clergy stoles and prayer shawls.

“We’re learning as we go,” said Sudock, noting that the group has only been working together since mid-October. “I see my role as trying to encourage (the participants) and help them make income.”

Mike McCallister, who was formerly homeless, is one of the budding artisans.

WelcomeChurchScarfb“Doing Welcome Threads and being able to earn my own income is a big deal,” said McCallister, “and doing the work is fun. Besides the t-shirts, I’m also learning weaving. So, I’m learning two new skills that I’ll be able to use in the future.”

Volunteers who can help with sewing or with marketing and advertising are always needed, especially those with skills in web design. The group can also use donations of good quality wool and heavy weight cotton. To inquire about making any kind of donations contact Sudock at saoriphiladelphia@gmail.com or via her website, http://www.readytohand.org/contact/

Photos of items currently for sale will be uploaded to the Ready to Hand Etsy.com site at: http://www.etsy.com/people/saoriphiladelphia.

— Rev. Sue Lang