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Service means a great deal
Rain doesnt stop volunteers from bringing sunshine into hundreds of lives
Lora Cooley, left, and Diane Duffy dance with Al Buchheim on Saturday at Morningside Assisted Living. Music and entertainment were part of an ice cream social at Morningside that was part of the First United Methodist Church Great Day of Service. Buchheim is a resident of Morningside. - photo by Tom Reed
It was a great day for Hall County on Saturday when the First United Methodist Church held its second annual Great Day of Service.

Lynda Askew and Letrell Simpson, who served as co-chairwomen for the event, planned more than 40 community projects for 843 volunteers. Askew said that the day was a tremendous success.

"Each of us became more aware of things in our community," she said.

The volunteer opportunities ranged from delivering donated Chick-fil-A meals for Meals On Wheels to painting kitchen cabinets at My Sister’s Place, a shelter for battered women.

All volunteers started their day with a prayer service, breakfast and communion at 7:30 a.m. at the church, then dispersed across Hall County to serve others.

At Jones Elementary, a family activity day was coordinated by first grade teacher Ashley Linville of Gainesville. All members of the community were invited.

"We’re like a family, everybody’s invited," Linville said.

The day of family fun included kickball, face painting, cookie decorating, inflatable moon walks, cross decorating, hot dogs and other snacks.

Safe Kids of Hall County, an organization dedicated to preventing child injury, handed out free bicycle helmets and safety pamphlets for kids. The Hall County Fire Department gave out safety pamphlets and visited with the kids.

Terry Walton, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, cooked hot dogs.

"We’re trying to extend some Christian love and hospitality, no strings attached," Walton said.

Though it’s a national movement, the idea to hold a Great Day Of Service locally came from Evanda Moore, who helped with crafts at the Jones Elementary family day. Moore said that she was touched to learn that in other Methodist congregations "volunteers gave up a Saturday to come together and to go out in the community to serve others."

Susan Daniell of Gainesville spent her volunteer time Saturday at First United Methodist, helping with the many activities, including setting up for today’s celebration lunch at the church.

"I think it’s the best day in the life of the church," said Daniell about the day of service. In addition to giving shirts to volunteers, Daniell also had a hand in several other of the day’s projects, including boxing cookies for local fire and police stations and helping fix lunch for children in the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.

Groups of women also gathered at the church to make prayer shawls, prayer quilts and hospital gowns. Charline Shanks of Gainesville wanted to sew prayer blankets after her sister received a similar one before she died.

"It meant so much to my sister, I had to do one for someone else," said Shanks.

Each volunteer said a prayer while sewing a prayer tie into the blankets, which will be given to those in crisis or in need of comfort.

"It’s a marvelous thing and outreach is a great part of it. It’s like you see a need in your community and you think, ‘I can fix that,’" Joan Rigel, who led another group making prayer shawls, said about the day of service.

Many volunteers in the Great Day of Service also spent time outdoors, despite the rainy weather.

In the Oakwood area, group leader Kathy Dent went to Elachee Nature Center with a group of nearly 25 Boy Scouts to clear a invasive plants from the Walnut Creek flood plain.

"It’s that tired, satisfied feeling," said Dent about volunteering outside, adding that Great Day of Service was a great way to meet people from the church and introduce kids to charity work.

Kim Powell, one of the day’s volunteers, took her children along to an ice cream social at Dogwood Forest assisted living facility.

"Every time we visit, (the residents) appreciate it. They like the new faces," she said.

Powell, Happy Kirkpatrick, Arlene Teal, and Sam and Pat Rauch visited with residents of the facility, serving ice cream and cookies. Allen Nivens, a church member and musician, also sang and played music.

Ice cream socials were held at two other assisted living facilities, as well.

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