ORLANDO – There were glitches here and there, but generally organizers and volunteers were thrilled with the East Central District’s first SundayServe, a weekend of simultaneous community service involving 75 of the district’s 80 churches.
Dr. Wayne Wiatt, East Central’s superintendent, said he expects the event will be repeated, though possibly not next November. Organizers are accepting feedback from church leaders as to what date to set in 2013.
“The overwhelming response from everybody was let’s do it again, sooner rather than later,” Wiatt said Monday.
A debriefing last week revealed that about 5,000 volunteers turned out for community service projects throughout the five-county district, about twice the number anticipated from sign-up lists before the event on Nov. 3-4.
|UMC volunteers at the Joe R. Lee Boys and Girls Club in Eatonville sported red T-shirts with a message of outreach at East Central District's SundayServe event. Photo by Don Youngs.|
“I was elated,” Wiatt said.
He said he especially was pleased with the enthusiastic response of lay leaders. Congregations that joined other churches to work on joint projects and celebrate together afterward tended to see the biggest benefit, Wiatt said.
He and Rev. Clare Chance, pastor at Broadway UMC, Orlando, and one of the lead organizers for SundayServe, said they have heard from other churches and district superintendents who expressed interest in making a similar effort, so the idea may spread.
SundayServe leaders also developed a PowerPoint presentation highlighting some of the results from the event and follow-up surveys. Among them:
• Pastors who actively promoted the event typically saw a 20 percent increase in the number of Sunday worship participants on SundayServe weekend.
• 65,500 families received healthy meals.
• Hundreds of low-income and homeless people received groceries.
• Nearly 20 miles of beaches, plus other waterways, roads and parks, were cleaned, along with some charitable organizations.
• More than 1,000 nursing home residents received visits from SundayServe volunteers.
Chance said she has put together some training materials based on East Central’s experience that she is willing to share. To reach her, click here.