Push is on for Florida's Imagine No Malaria campaign

They look so tiny. Easy to smash or swat away.

But the life-threatening illness mosquitoes can carry is anything but small and easy to squash. It’s taken years of effort and many millions of dollars donated by caring people – including many in The United Methodist Church – to make a dent in the death toll in faraway places like Africa.
Deni Blankenship with Matt Horan wearing Gator shirt
Deni Blankenship sees her request for Rev. Matt Horan to wear UF Gator attire in exchange for a donation to Imagine No Malaria. Photo from Seminole Heights UMC. 
Even so, for the United Methodist campaign known as Imagine No Malaria, the goal is in sight. Less than $10 million of the campaign’s $75 million goal remains to be raised. Imagine No Malaria is hoping the Florida Conference, the 30th United Methodist conference to formally partner with the national organization, will raise $2.5 million by December.

To that end, Bishop Ken Carter has designated Imagine No Malaria as one of two beneficiaries of the Annual Conference 2015 offering to be taken when clergy and lay members meet in June. The other beneficiary is a program that would help fund travel to the Holy Land next year for newly ordained deacons and elders.

Proceeds from another Annual Conference event, the second annual 5k run, also will go to the cause, said Rev. Sarah Miller, who is coordinating the run.

Last year, the effort netted about $5,000.

In addition, Florida’s Imagine No Malaria campaign is encouraging congregations to reach out to their communities on World Malaria Day – to be observed on Saturday, April 25 – with a pancake breakfast or some other fundraising activity that brings donations and awareness to the effort. Churches are encouraged to sign up to participate at www.imagineflorida.org.

“We’re focusing on pancakes … but we have one church doing a 5k (run) and another doing a craft fair,” said Kylie Foley, Imagine No Malaria’s field coordinator in Florida.

She said she’s pleased that nearly three-quarters of United Methodist churches in the conference have signed up to participate in some activity related to the Imagine No Malaria effort, whether it’s fundraising or prayers of support. More than a quarter of the goal has been raised or pledged, she said.

One pastor, Rev. Matt Horan of Seminole Heights UMC, Tampa, raises money by taking requests from congregation members to fulfill certain tasks in exchange for a donation. Tasks performed so far include wearing a University of Florida Gator shirt. The pastor is a diehard Florida State University Seminole fan, Foley explained.

Rev. Jeff Kantz, pastor at First UMC, Lake Wales, set up an art display of mosquitoes crafted from colorful pipe cleaners. For each $10 donation, a mosquito is removed from the display and children are permitted to swat it.

United Methodists and others also can download a “Giving from Abundance” calendar that includes educational ideas and small donations in recognition of the luxuries of living in an advanced country. For example, people are encouraged to donate $1 to Imagine No Malaria for every sink in their home or 25 cents for every screened window.

Foley said she appreciates the bishop’s support in designating Imagine No Malaria Florida as an offering beneficiary. She said Carter has talked about knowing people who have lost loved ones to malaria.

“It’s extremely generous,” she said. “The bishop has been so supportive. … It’s very personal to him.”

Annual Conference 2015 is scheduled for June 10-13 at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. For details, click here.

— Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor.

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