Thanksgiving Ingathering — a time for fellowship and giving
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Judy Brotherton can breathe easier now.
Brotherton, of Muscatine, has served as site coordinator for the Southeast Iowa Thanksgiving Ingathering at Iowa Wesleyan University for the past three years.
She said that while she enjoys her volunteer position, the last few days leading up to the event can be very stressful. “About Wednesday or Thursday before the Ingathering I panic,” she said Saturday as dozens of individuals were scurrying outside the Howe Student Center, packing the kits for shipment.
“I start thinking, ‘what if nobody comes?’ I guess it is a God-thing,” she continued. “Plenty of people show up and they really seem to enjoy it.”
Not only is the Ingathering a large relief effort for people in the United States and beyond, but it is a reunion of sorts while working together for the common good, she said. “I like it for the fellowship and helping people more needy than we are. It also is a reunion of sorts as some of these people I see once a year. I think it is a great thing when people come together and help people who need help.”
Briefly, the Ingathering, hosted for the 37th consecutive year in 2016 across the state, is a way for local churches in the Iowa Conference to help alleviate hunger in Iowa and around the world. Churches put together kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the Iowa-Nigeria partnership, make bazaar and auction items and collect money for several hunger projects.
For the last 35 years, the southeast Iowa collection site has been at Iowa Wesleyan. “They have been really great to work with,” Brotherton reflected.
However, Iowa’s Thanksgiving Ingathering goes well beyond alleviating hunger, Brotherton said. In Iowa, Methodist congregations collect gifts of school kits, health kits, sewing kits and layette kits. These kits contain basic supplies for learning, hygiene, sewing and for new babies. The kits are boxed by type, then shipped to a UMCOR depot where they are stored until a call comes to send them to a place or people with a need.
“We give the kits to people in the United States and around the world,” Brotherton said. “In the United States, they go to areas hit by disasters.”
She said most of the kits collected at the southeast Iowa site are bound for Nigeria.
Layettes, she explained, are an aid to transport newborn babies. Most of the layettes are sent to Nigeria. “In Nigeria, women have to go to a clinic to have a baby. If they go to the clinic, they get a layette and some women walk miles to get to the clinic.”
Other kits collected for the southeast site include school, health and literature (LIT). Brotherton said the LIT kits includes a white board, crayons and a notebook with the intent of the kit to aid adults learning to read.
Churches collect items throughout the year, she said. Brotherton usually starts assembling her donations in July. “I start them when the notebooks go on sale for 17 cents and buy cases of them,” she remarked.
All of the items collected and brought to the site have to be re-boxed in standard-size shipping boxes, she said. Although Saturday’s event was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., Brotherton said people were waiting when she arrived at 8 a.m.
“We usually have at least 50 people re-packaging boxes,” she said. “A lot of people doing the repacking are church youth groups, but we have plenty of adults too. The kids want to know their work is needed and valued. That’s why they come.
“I am always pleased at how generous people are with their time and coming together to do this and have a good time,” she added.
In addition to the supplies, the Ingathering also includes a bazaar table with craft items for sale, a small bake sale, a monetary donations table and a quilt auction.
Iowa is divided into five sites for the Ingathering. Other sites are Cedar Falls, Greenfield, Webster City and Cherokee.
Once the kits are boxed, the ones which go to Nigeria are taken by truck to Des Moines and shipped from there. The UMCOR kits are picked up by two semis who travel across the state on Saturday to the five sites. Once picked up, the UMCOR kits are taken to Louisiana.
Planning for the event consists of about three meetings during the year. The first meeting is in December to evaluate the last Ingathering and then meetings are hosted quarterly.
Brotherton, who moved to Iowa from Kansas 35 years ago, said she learned of the program while in Kansas and became involved once she relocated to Iowa. “I thought it was a great thing — people coming together to help people who needed help.”
Throughout the years, the Ingatherings in Iowa have grown. She said the last few years, over $1 million in kits and cash has been collected.
As Brotherton watched the last few boxes being located on the truck, she was smiling. “I feel very gratified,” she said as she thought about the volunteerism and benevolence shown by Methodist congregations in Iowa and beyond.