Merritt Island church reaches out to National Guard families

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Merritt Island church reaches out to National Guard families

Dec. 14, 2005  News media contact: Tita Parham*  
800-282-8011   Orlando {0413}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

MERRITT ISLAND — A strong man tests his strength at a block party held for neighbors at Grace United Methodist Church here. Photo by the Rev. Bob Pearcy, Photo #05-288.

Members of Grace United Methodist Church have found a practical way to "support their troops" throughout the holiday season.

Church members began helping neighbors who have family members serving in the National Guard by giving them Thanksgiving dinners. That connection — with Delta Company 1-124, a National Guard unit based in Cocoa — began this fall during a community festival coordinated by the church.

"We had a block party on Nov. 19, and we invited (our) neighbors," said the Rev. Ginny Pearcy, a commissioned deacon serving at the church and wife of the church's pastor, the Rev. Bob Pearcy. "Each year we've been trying to do servant evangelism."

During the festival, member Jeannie Kneidler befriended one of the church's visitors, Charlotte Esposito, whose husband is deployed in Afghanistan with Delta Company. As the two women talked, Kneidler learned that many of the unit's families are struggling financially while their spouses are deployed. Kneidler wanted to help them.

"(Jeannie) said she had learned in Disciple (Bible Study) to go out and show hospitality," Pearcy said. "I am really proud of Jeannie for stepping out."

Pearcy and her husband worked with Kneidler and two other members, Chuck and Derema Floyd, to brainstorm ideas and collect money to help the families. Their first step was to prepare Thanksgiving baskets.

Esposito said she felt overwhelmed by their act of generosity. "They called us up, and they threw it all together within a couple of days," Esposito said. " ... It was just absolutely amazing."

Esposito says several of the families are quite large. One has five children and another has seven. In one family the mother is deployed and the husband is home working and raising their five children. Esposito said the moment he received his turkey dinner was memorable.

"We just started loading stuff into his truck, and he couldn't believe it. He was (saying), 'This is so great,' " she said.

The assistance will continue throughout the Christmas season Pearcy said. Church members are working to fulfill the Christmas wish lists of children from the families — about 30 of them, ranging in age from babies to teenagers. Their wishes were displayed on stars hung on the church Christmas tree.

"We got a list of what each child would like and now we're beginning to gather (the gifts) together," Pearcy said.

A spaghetti dinner for the families is also planned for later this month. It will be a time to get to know the families better, Pearcy said.

Pearcy understands the struggles families face when a spouse is away. Her husband served in the Air Force from 1967-71 and was deployed in Vietnam when their first son was born.

Pearcy said she has been impressed with how the women of the military families help each other. Recently, the mother of seven children had surgery, and her fellow spouses rallied around her. Meanwhile, Pearcy encourages other churches to consider reaching out to their local military families.

"If churches haven't had this opportunity, they might want to think about it," Pearcy said.


This article relates to Outreach Ministry.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.

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