There is no better time to sit at a kitchen table sharing what you are thankful for, than Thanksgiving. But for the First United Methodist Student Ministries staff, Thanksgiving is filled with volunteering. Rather than spend their time all snuggled up and counting the things they have, they go out and give other people reasons to be thankful.
Student Ministries is a program run by First United Methodist Church, and it is meant for students going into the sixth grade. The program is separate from regular service so that kids can be in a smaller and younger group. Andrew Hudson, Student Ministries Director, spends Thanksgiving with both his family and people in need. Places such as women’s shelters and houses for the elderly are always looking for help. Hudson and his family members are readily able to fill that empty spot.
“Every Thanksgiving, my wife and her family along with another family that we have grown up with go to a battered women’s shelter. This place is for women who have been hurt and been subject to spousal abuse, and they come with their kids often. We serve them a lunch that we made ourselves,” said Hudson.
This type of volunteer work takes a lot of preparation. The time that Hudson and his family spend getting ready for the events are just as important and meaningful as the event itself. Hudson takes this time to prepare because giving back to those less privileged than him is something he feels called to do, therefore he wastes no time in doing them.
“We do a lot of prep beforehand for [their visit to the woman’s shelter] such as we plan out what kind of meal we are going to make for them. After we served the food, we sit with them and just talk to them to try and let them know that there are people that care about them and will help them in anyway they need. There are a couple different reasons I do it. One being that I think we are all called to do it. I try my best to live by Christ’s example. I see how blessed I am and I look around and see people that don’t have what I have by no fault of their own, so I want to make sure they know they are loved,” states Hudson.
Madelyn Medina, Student Experience Coordinator, volunteers for a much more personal reason. With both her and her sister having a history of being hospital bound during the holidays, they feel almost obligated to go and help people feel better about their circumstances.
“Because my sister has special needs and health problems because of it and because I have an autoimmune disorder, those having left us both hospitalized, we usually go make little care packages to take to families at the hospital. The packages have fuzzy socks, snacks, and blankets. Just little comfort things you don’t think about but that make a big difference when you’re in the hospital. We will go and hand-deliver them and write a note of encouragement or a bible verse and just let them know that there are people thinking about them,” states Medina.
Despite their different motivations to lend a helping hand, Medina shares Hudson’s views on giving and expecting no compensation for the work they do. She wishes to show the people around them, no matter how privileged they are, they are loved.
“I love volunteering. I think my biggest thing that motivate me is that volunteering is one of the purest ways to show people that you love them. Just to do something and expect nothing in return,” says Medina.
Casey Mallory, Associate Director of Student Ministries, spends Thanksgiving volunteering as well. Mallory works hard every week, including her Thanksgiving break, to prepare for holiday celebrations.
“I have currently volunteered for the last year and a half with children’s ministry doing their Family Experience programs led by kids for kids. Every time we have something coming up, we have about two months of weekly practices, learning dances, learning songs, dress rehearsals. All that leading up to the final event. Currently we are about to start doing Christmas, so we are starting that next week and have practices every week leading up until Christmas,” said Mallory.
Mallory has a history of volunteering, and feels as though it chose her more than she chose it. She has volunteered all through high school and college, as well as collecting canned food with her sorority. The amount of volunteering Mallory did even earned her a job in the past.
“Every time I have started volunteering to do something, it just starts out as somebody asking me if I mind helping out, and it kind of spirals and turns into something else. I did a lot of volunteering a while back for the lot in downtown Mansfield, and it was somebody that I knew asked me if I could put together a flyer. After that I just began to get more involved and began asking for what else I could do. I ended up being a volunteer coordinator for them. It was cool to be a part of helping build that up, and getting the word out,” stated Mallory.
Volunteering is a beautiful way to show love to people, especially during the holidays. Thanksgiving is a time people laugh and share memories with their families. But a few people with big hearts manage to set aside valuable time to make people in need feel like a family themselves.