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Saturday will be ‘Great Day’ for hundreds

Church members to head out to do service projects

POSTED: April 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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Early Saturday morning, about 850 people will gather at First United Methodist Church for meditation and communion. Then, wearing shirts emblazoned with "Great Day of Service," they will disperse across Hall County to perform community service projects that vary from painting a church to delivering chicken sandwiches.

Saturday will be the second annual Great Day of Service, a community service event in which members of First United Methodist Church will spend most of the day doing more than 60 projects for a variety of local agencies.

LeTrell Simpson and Lynda Askew, co-organizers of the event and members of the church, get excited when they talk about the project. And while both say the projects are to benefit local agencies, they also agree the church and its members benefit from taking part in the event.

"We feel that we get far more out of it than the people we are going out to assist. As is always the case when you volunteer, you get so much out of it personally." Simpson said. "It’s very much personally fulfilling, but it’s also a wonderful outreach ministry for our church."

Askew agreed that it benefits the church as a whole, not just the members.

"It’s really a very strengthening thing for our church. We are a large church, and it helps us get to know one another. It helps us learn to work together," Askew said. "From an internal perspective, it’s really a good thing for your church. It helps us become sensitive to other parts of our community and other needs in our community."

Aside from organizing the massive undertaking, Simpson and Askew also get into the act. They were among the church members who signed up to bake about 5,000 cookies that will be taken to the Gainesville and Hall County fire stations, police departments and sheriff’s offices.

"This is a way to say thank you to them," Simpson said.

Simpson said 800 of the church’s 3,000 members already have signed up for this year’s event, and she expects about another 50 more to register Saturday morning. That’s about 150 more than participated in last year’s inaugural event. She explained that many of the projects will involve entire families, even getting children involved.

"It’s a way to involve the entire family," Simpson said. "There are children of all ages — from 8 up — that will be involved in a variety of projects throughout the community. And we think that also sets such a great example for volunteering in the future for them."

Askew said the number of projects also has grown this year and run the gamut from sewing prayer shawls and sending items to missions overseas to holding a skating party and putting up a swing set.

One of the new projects this year will be delivering some chicken sandwich meals donated by Chick-fil-A to the 260 regular Meals on Wheels recipients. Meals on Wheels usually makes deliveries on Monday through Friday.

The Gainesville-Hall County Senior Center, which houses the Meals on Wheels program, also will be getting a fresh coat of paint for its fitness room, said center manager Merry Howard.

Though Saturday’s projects are centered on local agencies, some of the help also is going overseas. Askew said items are being sent to churches in Bosnia, Honduras, Venezuela and Jamaica.

"It’s a good way to remind our church members of the reach of the church and the fact that we need to be mindful of needs not just here but around the world and be sensitive to those as well," Askew said.

Simpson and Askew explained that projects are selected by a committee of church members. Letters that included a project request form were sent to area agencies last year. The committee selected projects that could be completed in one day, but also added some additional projects where church members knew of community needs. Members then sign up the projects they would like to work on.

LeTrell said the church plans to continue to make the Great Day of Service an annual event. Many other Methodist churches and other organizations across the country also hold similar Great Day of Service events.



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