By Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA – Jerry Hudgins has always had a desire to help others.
But he never expected God to use him in the way that he has.
Hudgins, a member of Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish in Topeka, recently created a Christian apparel collection with the help of Becky, his wife of 25 years, and a graphic artist.
The messages the collection illustrates are simple yet timeless — from “Love one another” (Jn 15:12) to “Seek and ye shall find” (Mt 7:7).
Hudgins didn’t initially set out to start an apparel collection, but he had plenty of experience under his belt.
Five years ago, Hudgins founded Sole Reason, an organization with a mission of using “the local communities’ love, compassion and generosity to provide new sneakers to school-age children in need, throughout the year.”
Three years after that, he hoped to start a foundation whose purpose would be to listen to kids and help those who were victims of bullying, outcasts or even those engaged in bullying behavior. He even had a name in mind: the Ears to Hear Foundation.
But due to time constraints and other obligations, Hudgins knew deep down that God had different plans for him, and he was pulled in another direction.
Last year, with most activities shut down for a time due to COVID-19, Hudgins knew many people were, like a lot of his family and friends, searching for answers and hope.
“I was praying for an answer [in the form of something that I could do] to help them realize that God is still in control, no matter what happens,” he said.
In September 2020, Hudgins came up with the idea to start a Christian apparel collection, one not based on profits but rather on bringing “a never changing message for an ever-changing world” — a message of Christ’s love and hope.
Armed with the original name of Ears to Hear, Hudgins discussed the idea with Becky, his wife of more than 25 years, who agreed as long as he didn’t invest thousands of dollars of the couple’s money into a brick-and-mortar store or stockpiles of inventory.
And then, there was the logo, another suggestion from Becky.
Because sheep are mentioned at least 500 times throughout Scripture, more than any other animal, she thought a sheep should serve as the collection’s logo. She also suggested drawing a sheep with its ear sticking up as if it’s listening to something.
After working with a graphic artist to sketch the logo now known as Bruno, Jerry turned, once again, to prayer, asking God to send him ideas for messages — messages that could easily be placed on T-shirts, long-sleeve T-shirts, onesies and water bottles.
As of now, the collection, launched in late 2020, contains at least two or three dozen unique designs, although Jerry said he has more than 90 ideas written or sketched out in some form.
One of the first designs featured Bruno with the words, “Jesus, friend of the misfits, the broken, the lost” along with the words “John 15:12” — the passage in which Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.
Other designs have featured a sheep waving an American flag, saying, “What a mess until we find Jesus” and three different colored sheep sitting on bench with the words, “Love one another as Christ loves you.”
Although Jerry comes up with the designs, he doesn’t draw any of them.
“I can’t draw. I can only draw stick people, and you don’t want T-shirts with stick people,” he said with a laugh.
The graphic designer comes up with three different designs for each product, said the couple, one of which the couple approves for production, after which Becky finalizes color and size choices. Most designs are available in eight to 10 different colors and several sizes, all of which are available for direct shipment from the vendor to the customer.
Because the couple doesn’t have a stock inventory or a brick-and-mortar store, their overhead costs are minimal. Still, Jerry said they care more about spreading God’s love.
“I don’t care about the money,” he said. “That will come later. I just want people to realize that God is still in control, no matter what happens. Jesus is our strength, our refuge and our hope.”
To learn more about the Ears to Hear collection, visit the website at: earstohearcollection.com.