Showing love and more: First Cares annual outreach makes an impact

Leighton Turner has discovered one thing about volunteering to help others through an annual outreach called First Cares. It comes with an added benefit beyond the unmistakable warmth he feels inside for showing love and goodness to his fellow residents.

“You get to know others in our congregation,” Turner said of First United Methodist in downtown Columbus. “You build a camaraderie.”

The church’s seventh annual such service project will unfold with an estimated 60 volunteers, from youngsters to retirees, extending compassion and building love from 9 a.m. to noon Monday at various nonprofits and locales such as Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, the Bartholomew County Humane Society and a range of church members homes for various projects. Turner and his wife, Sheila, always have been part of a group stuffing pillows and making blankets for the local effort called Beloved Bags for foster children.

In fact, that group has made thousands of blankets, many of which were once given to patients at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

The Rev. Chris Lantz, a former First United Methodist associate pastor, launched the idea in 2014, according to Sue Ellen Brown, who helps coordinate the effort as the chair of the missions committee.

“He was passionate about helping people in the neighborhood,” Brown said.

And the idea is slowly growing.

“We seem to continue to draw more people (to help),” Brown said.

The Rev. Howard Boles, the church’s senior pastor, sees the outreach as significant.

“It’s a good way to kind of acquaint ourselves with some of the groups and organizations within our community, but also to do some projects that are meaningful and valuable for everybody involved,” he said. “And we get a lot out of it ourselves.”

The children work with older church members to help make homemade cards for members of the military. Another group makes cookies for local teachers.

“Typically, we have people with a multitude of ideas (for helping others),” Brown said.

She added that especially new members to First United Methodist are impressed with the outreach, and similar ones done at the church. For instance, its springtime annual smorgasbord has been a huge success in generating funds for missions for more than half a century.

For the past few years, First Cares work sometimes has been affected by uncertainty since the date was moved to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

“We never quite know in advance what the weather will be like,” Brown said. “But we like being able to offer a variety of activities so people can float between them (if they wish).”

She mentioned that there has been discussion about adding a First Cares date in the fall for more community work. But no firm decisions have been made. The overall support for the original concept is solid, though.

“The church really has embraced it,” Brown said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About the outreach” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: First United Methodist’s First Cares community service.

When: 9 a.m. to noon Monday.

Where: Various locations.

Why: To serve others and show God’s love.

Years for the project: Seven.

Information: 812-372-2851 or or the Facebook page for First United Methodist Church.