Mar 05, 2024 | James Lee

“Can you imagine a life with only one pair of underwear?” 

This poignant question, posed by the Rev. Marilyn Schneider of the Eastern PA Conference Prison Ministries & Restorative Justice Team, underscores the circumstances faced by incarcerated individuals in Philadelphia. Upon entry, they are provided with a single pair of briefs and no undershirts, a standard that starkly highlights the need for basic human dignity.

In her collaboration with the Rev. Carmelo Urena, Director of Chaplaincy/Religious Services at the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, Schneider, an ordained deacon, gained insights into the critical shortage of underwear for the city’s arriving inmates, who number over 8,000 across four facilities.

EPA and GNJ working together in mission

In a spirit of service and solidarity, over two-dozen EPA and Greater New Jersey conference staff members collaborated at the EPA conference office on Monday, March 4, to help provide a fundamental human need—underwear—for those entering incarceration in Philadelphia. Following a morning of worship, meetings and lunch, EPA&GNJ staff members together separated, folded and repackaged 240 pieces of underwear purchased by generous church members from Amazon and shipped to the conference office.

Their small mission effort marked a big step in EPA’s “Undies for Easter” campaign, an initiative aimed at collecting and distributing essential clothing items to inmates, a group often overlooked in discussions of affirming the dignity of all persons.

The campaign’s ambitious goal is to receive donations of 2,000 briefs and 2,000 shirts by Palm Sunday, March 24, and repackage and deliver them during that Holy Week, ensuring that the act of giving aligns with an Easter season that’s all about renewal and redemption.

EPA is about three-quarters of the way to achieving that goal, said Schneider. She is counting hopefully on church members and other supporters to take the campaign over the top and help surpass the goal.

‘Sending a message of hope and humanity’

Staff members, embodying the campaign’s spirit of compassion, shared their thoughts on the day’s efforts.

“It’s more than just buying, packing and delivering underwear,” said Eric Drew, GNJ’s Director of Connectional Ministries, reflecting on the day’s activities. “It’s about sending a message of hope and humanity.” He joined EPA conference members last August in delivering 2,300 donated basic toiletry items to Philadelphia prisoners in the Prison Ministries & Restorative Justice’s 2023 “Toiletry Bowl” donation campaign.

“It’s not too late to buy the needed underwear things, and the smallest purchases will make a big difference,” said Schneider, urging continued support. “This is stuff that’s really needed.” 

For those interested in contributing to the campaign and learning more about the ongoing efforts in prison ministry, the EPA and GNJ conferences welcome your engagement and support. Justclick on this link to donate using the Undies for Easter Gift Registry on Learn more.

Corbin Payne photos