Cooperation -- Orangeburg Merchant Works With Others To Meet Winter Need

Saturday, March 25, 2006

More than 400 clean coats have been distributed to local residents in need thanks to the cooperative spirit of one Orangeburg merchant.

Bobby Bruner, owner of Martinizing Dry Cleaning, has donated his services to First Presbyterian Church Women's Lunch Bunch Circle ministry "Our Father's Closet" since its beginnings in 2003 and "cheerfully accepts all the coats that need cleaning and, without hesitation, generously offers to do more," according to Trudy Frierson, a member of the circle ministry.

It is because of his humble generosity that Bruner has been honored for exemplifying March's Orangeburg County Community of Character trait: cooperation.

"I think certainly, without Mr. Bruner's willingness to clean the coats, this project would not be a success," Frierson said. "Some 400 men, women and children have been warmer thanks to Mr. Bruner's willingness to clean the coats." Each of the donated coats, which are in good condition, is cleaned for free through Bruner's business. They are then individually bagged, and members of the women's circle insert a bookmark with a Bible verse in the pocket of each coat prior to distribution.

The coats are delivered to local charitable organizations including CASA, Hospice of TRMC, Samaritan House, Cooperative Church Ministries of Orangeburg and Orangeburg County Council on Aging, as well as area schools.

Frierson said the Lunch Bunch Circle initially wanted to get a discounted rate on the cost of cleaning the coats, but Bruner would have none of that.

"Every time we bring some in, he smiles," she said. "He always opens his door and tells us to bring them on in. He's very humble about receiving attention for doing this. He just sees this as a part of his service to the community." Frierson said initially church members were asked to donate old coats. But, as word passed around about the ministry, people in the community began dropping off their used coats at Martinizing Dry Cleaners and designating them for "Our Father's Closet." "We had no idea this project would be so widespread," she said.

Bruner said he sees the ministry as a worthwhile cause and is happy to donate his services to it.

"Some of the stories they tell of these families they distribute coats to ... they're needy and very appreciative of the coats they receive," he said. "We just like to help people if we can. That's it." Bruner is also an active member of another service organization the Shrine Club and has been since 1973.

His son Greg Bruner, who with brother Clay Bruner helps Bobby Bruner run Martinizing Dry Cleaners, said they have had several people from the community drop off donated coats for "Our Father's Closet." "A lot of people have clothes at home they are not using," he said. "If you can help someone out by donating something you no longer use, it's a great thing." Greg Bruner said the service they provide is just a small part of the larger picture.

"This is just a small part of it, a very small part," he said. "We're just glad to be able to help the community and contribute our part to society.

"We're grateful to have a little part in this." Caroline Marcus, a member of the women's ministry circle at First Presbyterian and regular customer at Martinizing, said she volunteered to approach Bobby Bruner about "Our Father's Closet" and the possibility of giving the ministry discounts on cleaning the donated coats.

"Our group had more questions than answers at the beginning," she said. "When I explained to him our plan ... he was just so gracious. He said, 'I'd love to be a part of something like that.' "I think Mr. Bruner is really deserving of this recognition. He has cooperated when he really didn't know for sure what he was getting into." She said Bobby Bruner has never questioned how long the ministry will continue or complained when she drops coats off at his business.

"He greets me with a smile and a buggy," Marcus said. "We have been most appreciative.

"Mr. Bruner has really exemplified the true spirit of cooperation. This was not his project, but he chose to participate in it. Without him, we would not have been able to get it off the ground. It's just really exceeded our expectations." She said the occasional letters and stories from coat recipients makes it all worthwhile.

"I think we have worked real hard together to make our community a better place," Marcus said. "I think a clean, warm coat on a cold day has let those in need know someone really cares."

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