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Retired United Methodists get to work

Retired United Methodists get to work

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Retired United Methodists get to work

By Sarah Alsgaard | May 3, 2009 {1011}

AUBURNDALE, Fla. — During a break from construction, a group of United Methodists sit around a table eating oranges, drinking coffee and laughing like old friends.

George Tuttle installs drywall. Photo by Sarah Alsgaard. Photo #09-1165.

They’re in the middle of creating four new classrooms at First United Methodist Church in Auburndale.

“We have more fun than we’re supposed to, I think,” said George Tuttle, one member of the group.

The crew is part of Nomads on a Mission of Active Divine Service (NOMADS), a mission outreach ministry of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

NOMADS are volunteers — usually retired people who own an RV — who help with work projects at United Methodist churches and facilities. They travel throughout the country and work on a project for three weeks before either taking a break or moving on to another project. They work four days of the week and spend three days sightseeing in the area. Projects vary from constructing classrooms in churches to painting and mending broken lights.

“We’re not full-timers; I say we’re any-timers,” Liz Keen says. “Anytime we want to go (work on a project), we can.”

NOMADS call their volunteer organization “retirement with a purpose.”

Judy Hodge works on one of the murals for the children's room. Photo by Sarah Alsgaard. Photo #09-1166.

“(Before NOMADS) when we were traveling it was sort of superficial,” Judy Hodge said. “You get back home, you have your pictures and you say, ‘Well, we’ve done this,’ but it’s just kind of an empty feeling, and I said I wanted more meaning in my life.”

The volunteers working at the Auburndale church also brought their spouses to lend a hand. Work is assigned depending on expertise and experience, according to Hodge. For this particular project, the men were installing drywall while the women painted murals in the children’s classrooms one floor below.

“I remembered that I had these classrooms that I was doing murals in, and I had gotten started, but hadn’t had time to get going again, and so I asked them if they could paint some fish,” said Rhonda Hayes, Christian education director and children’s pastor at the church. “I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to get those rooms done. There’s just no way, and to have that much attention on it from people in the church. It’s really a good thing, and it worked out neat.”

During the 2007-2008 volunteer year, 993 NOMADS worked on 179 projects in 33 states and Mexico, giving 127,151 hours of their time to the projects.

“It’s the friendships we’ve made over the years (that) are wonderful,” Judy Tuttle said. “It’s rewarding. The true blessing is ours.”

Bill Keen puts insulation putty around electrical wires. Photo by Sarah Alsgaard. Photo #09-1167.

For the last four years, various NOMADS have visited the Auburndale church. They’ve installed windows in the parsonage and siding over the walkways. They’ve also renovated the fellowship hall and constructed a stage in it, among other projects.

“It’s been a great ministry in the fact that not only have they done a lot for us in a material kind of way, but we’ve had an opportunity to fellowship with them, and they share meals with us, they worship with us, they go to Sunday school with us,” said the Rev. Doug Townley, senior pastor at the church.

NOMADS also work on disaster recovery in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in what is called Revolving Team Projects (RTPs), according to Jim Traviss, vice-chairman of the NOMADS board of directors. These projects can last as long as 16 weeks, and volunteers can work on them for up to eight weeks, he said.

Currently, the number of projects needing completion has outnumbered the number of NOMADS available. Individuals interested in learning more about NOMADS or joining the group may visit or call 1-866-4NOMADS (1-866-466-6237). Owning an RV is not required to join, but it is encouraged.

“We go and do what we can while we’re there and try to make a difference,” Tuttle said.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is a freelance writer for e-Review.