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Showers and blessings

First Presbyterian Church of Plano, Texas cares for its neighbors with both suds and duds

by the Rev. Matt Curry for the Synod of the Sun | Special to Presbyterian News Service

First Presbyterian Church of Plano, Texas adds to the blessing of Streetside Showers, a mobile trailer that provides “20 minutes of hot, soapy solitude,” by bringing clothes to those who take advantage of a free weekly shower. (Contributed photo)

PLANO, Texas — The people of First Presbyterian Church of Plano are adding blessings to the showers a local organization provides for homeless people.

The church, north of Dallas, has operated a clothes pantry for 53 years, but that ministry was paused when the building was closed due to the pandemic. Thankfully, this turned out to be not an ending but a new opportunity for the church to serve others.

First-Plano connected with an organization called Streetside Showers, which provides a weekday mobile shower unit for the homeless. On Wednesdays, church volunteers haul clothes from the pantry and other items purchased from area thrift stores to bless the recipients of the showers.

First-Plano is among churches throughout the Synod of the Sun that are finding ways to respond creatively to ministry challenges during the coronavirus outbreak. Often, this involves partnerships with other ministries to accomplish what neither could do alone.

“They have this mobile shower unit. We looked at what they are doing and said, ‘We can help you guys,’” said Ted McKown, a church elder not currently serving on session.

Streetside Showers brings a mobile trailer to underserved communities “to provide our guests with 20 minutes of hot, soapy, solitude so they may leave with a heightened sense of dignity,” according to its website.

Lance Olinski began Streetside Showers in 2017 with a small trailer containing two bathrooms and shower stalls. He takes the trailer to locations in the Dallas area, including Plano on Wednesdays.

McKown said the church discovered it could “add value” to this ministry by bringing clothes to the shower location in Plano every Wednesday, where 30-40 people are served. Streetside Showers provides guests with new underwear, a bag of toiletries and a clean towel.

Sharing a parking lot location in Plano, Texas, the Streetside Showers trailer and the people of First Presbyterian Church of Plano get to work helping as they uniquely can. (Contributed photo)

“They would shower and put their old clothes on, and we thought, ‘We can do better than that.’ We have a clothes closet at our church that has been going about 53 years. Now during COVID, we’ve shut down the building,” said McKown, who also moderates the church’s mission study team.

Now the clothes closet is going to where the people gather who need it — just another example of how the church of Jesus Christ is being the church during challenging times. Often people arrive before the showers are open to pick out the clean clothes they will be putting on afterward.

On Tuesday nights, about five church workers sort and prepare items for the next day’s donations. When they are short of clothing needed for that week, they shop local thrift shops to fill the void. Others donate money to fund purchases.

Gary Schultz, who also serves on the mission study team, said they discovered Streetside Showers while searching for opportunities in which a small congregation with limited resources could make a difference in the community. The partnership with Streetside Showers made sense, and the church produced a YouTube video inviting neighboring churches to join the effort.

Schultz and his wife Judy said participating in the ministry has been “eye-opening,” especially because of the opportunity to build relationships, which destroys stereotypes.

Among the recipients of clothes are those who are preparing for job interviews or who are underemployed — not making enough money to provide for daily needs. Judy Schultz met a gig worker who because of the virus lost her contract job setting up stages for performances.

“There’s a real satisfaction knowing you are going right to the people in need,” her husband said. “There’s no middleman.”

The Rev. Matt Curry is in search of good news from ministries throughout the Synod of the Sun that are making connections with their congregations and communities. Do you have an idea to share? Send Curry an email at

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