Jerri Holliday’s Philippians 3 Ministries is where faith meets fashion

Jerri Holliday’s space inside The Harrelson Center in downtown Wilmington looks like a clothing boutique.
Updated: Aug. 28, 2023 at 5:30 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Jerri Holliday’s space inside The Harrelson Center in downtown Wilmington looks like a clothing boutique. High-end suits, dresses, slacks, shirts, blouses, ties, shoes and accessories for men and women line the walls, ready to be matched together to complete the perfect ensemble.

But, you won’t find a price tag. The people who ultimately walk out the door with one or more of these items aren’t shoppers. They don’t pay a dime. The clothing is all donated to Jerri’s non-profit, Philippians 3 Ministries, and her clients are often in desperate need. The clothes help showcase their outside, while Jerri’s words uplift and inspire the inside.

“Right now, that suit hanging on a hangar, it’s just some material and thread,” said Jerri, who is the organization’s Executive Director. “The true value of it, the beauty of it, is not shown until you put it on. You bring the value to the clothing. You bring the beauty out. The clothing doesn’t do that to you. So, you’ve got to understand you are worth it.”

The idea behind Philippians 3 Ministries began in 2005, in the den of Jerri’s home in Wilmington, after a pastor encouraged her to pray with women, in addition to the music ministry she performed at conferences across the country. Jerri incorporated the non-profit two years later and moved into the bottom floor of the Harrelson Center. She has used connections made through her work in music ministry to spread the word about taking donated clothing, and offering her services to men, women and families in need.

“Our clients, when they come in, they have a tendency to come in with the mindset of ‘Whatever you give me, I’ll be satisfied,’” Jerri said. “No, no, that’s not how it works down here. You have the right to come in and expect something good.”

Those clients come with many stories and are often referred by other organizations in the Harrelson Center or the local community. They may be victims of domestic violence who left home without any clothing. They may be families who do not have the money to dress a loved one in a respectful outfit for funeral services. They may be ex-cons or recovering drug addicts working their way back into society, who need a suit for a job interview.

“I want (the public) to know this is a place of refuge,” Jerri said. “I want them to know that anyone is welcome here. We’re not judgmental. I want them to know that yes, we are doing it. But we are not doing it by ourselves per se. I did not provide all these clothes. I did not provide the shoes or the jewelry. I did not provide this. The community did.”

Why this ministry? Decades ago, a young Jerri Holliday needed help. In 1976, Jerri delivered her first child while serving time in a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, after embezzling money for a man she trusted. She remembers contemplating suicide in a hotel room in New Orleans while on the run from law enforcement.

“All I had was a big bottle of Bayer aspirin,” she recalls. “I was looking in the mirror, and it was so old you could barely see anything. As I put the handful of pills in my hand, and I went to do like that (put them in her mouth), God said, ‘This is not the plan I have for you’. And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do.’ He said, ‘But I do,’ and I fell to my knees.”

The path forward had begun.

“I remember coming home, and mother and daddy never said, ‘You know better! How could you be so stupid? What were you thinking!?,’” Jerri said. “They never did. On the way home, my mom was in the passenger seat. I was sitting behind her and daddy was driving. Every now and then, Daddy would look in the rearview mirror and just smile at me. That’s what we do here. We look in the rearview mirror and we smile.”

Since that time, Jerri has used her voice for inspiration and ministry, working with area faith groups, organizations and churches. She released a collection of worship songs entitled Hope, Inspiration and Praise, which is available on Amazon.com and on Apple Music. Jerri became a regular performer with televangelist Jim Bakker’s shows and conferences, and on January 20, 2005, she performed at a Presidential Inaugural Ball in Branson, Missouri for President George W. Bush’s reelection celebration. She calls those experiences of providing joyful music her ‘process,’ of God refining her for her ‘purpose,’ which is Philippians 3 Ministries.

“I have a note up there, a young man, while he was here, I was fitting him in some suits, and I gave him a couple of bottles of water,” she said. “He got a job. He brought a case of water back and left the note that said, ‘I’m replacing the water you gave me. Thank you for the suits.’ That means more to me than a plaque saying I sang for the president!”

On the day we stopped by Philippians 3 Ministries, I found Jerri and other volunteers praying around Marcus Taylor, a 26-year-old from Richmond County who had an appointment for a fitting. Marcus had secured a spot in a recovery home in Wilmington, seeking change in his life after overdosing four times while addicted to drugs. He met Jerri after being referred to her non-profit ahead of an upcoming job interview.

“The look at my kid’s eyes, whenever they came to me asking me, ‘Hey, Daddy, could I get, you know, clothes, shoes and stuff,’ and I wasn’t able to afford to get that stuff for my kids. It really hurt me,” Marcus said, on the verge of tears.

Jerri set him up with an outfit to wear to a job interview, and other clothes to wear if he is hired. While going through the selection process, Marcus got what Jerri calls ‘mirror time,’ when clients see themselves dressed for success. I noticed tears in the young man’s eyes, from seeing someone new looking back. The outer transformation had happened. Jerri’s words and prayers of others will work to inspire and uplift the inside like she has to countless others in need.

“I gave hope,” Jerri said. “I gave something you can’t buy. I gave them respect. I gave them love, but also gave them a belief that they have a right to expect a good future.”

If you are interested in helping with Jerri Holliday’s Philippians 3 Ministries, either by donating clothing or as a volunteer, reach out to her at jerri1on1@ec.rr.com. The phone number is 910-617-4595. Her office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., by appointment.