By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
SHELBYVILLE — A few years ago Air Force veteran Robert Woolbright had to spend three days in intensive care at the Veterans Administration hospital in Murfreesboro.
After being moved to his room, Woolbright discovered the room had no personal hygiene items such as toothpaste or shampoo. The only thing in the bathroom was a dispenser with liquid soap.
Woolbright learned during his stay there that the hospital had only a certain allotment of hygiene items and if they were used up, the hospital staff had to wait on the next allotment.
Woolbright called his wife who had gone home to rest and asked her to bring enough items for himself and the rest of his floor at the VA hospital.
“The Lord put it on my heart to provide hygiene items,” Woolbright said. And he has continued to do so for more than two years.
Shortly after he began the ministry, Woolbright had a lot of donations, especially from local businesses as word spread of what he was doing.
Over time, businesses cut back on what they were giving so Woolbright has picked up the slack with the help of members from New Bethel and others in the community.
He said one church member told his story on her Facebook page and he has received support from people who read about it there.
Woolbright takes the toiletries he collects each month to the VA hospital. He estimated that he took between $500-$800 worth of items last month.
He noted that when he arrived the nurses showed him the closet where the items are stored. “The cupboard was bare. We filled them up,” he said.
He noted that the nurses on the floor are most appreciative of his ministry. In the past they would buy items themselves, he said.
Woolbright said he has been told that others have done similar ministries for the veterans but his is the only one that has lasted over a period of time.
He noted that the ministry is his way of showing his gratitude to the veterans for the service they gave their country.
Jonathan Curry, pastor of New Bethel, praised Woolbright and his church for willing to go outside its four walls to meet a ministry need.
Curry noted the Lord often “lays things on the hearts of people and they don’t do them. The Lord laid this on his (Woolbright’s) heart and he began to do it.”
Woolbright noted there are veterans all across the state as well as VA hospitals in other regions.
He hopes other people will consider a similar ministry if a need exists in their area.
In the meantime he has no plans to slow down his efforts.
“It has not entered my mind to quit,” Woolbright affirmed.
For more information about the ministry contact him at 931-703-6984.