A group of women at Trinity United Methodist Church in Lenoir City is working to improve the community and beyond.
United Methodist Women allows women to contribute physically and financially.
Terri Pearce, Trinity UMW president, said 2020 was difficult on the group and efforts to give back.
“Last year, we weren’t able to meet,” Pearce said. “Actually, February was our last in-person meeting. It’s been really hard. We’ve done the best we can, but it’s been such an unusual year. We hope to get back to normal or some semblance of normal later this year, once the vaccines become more available. We are a community of women who study God and try to be his hands in our community to develop a creative and supportive fellowship. Our main goal is mission work in global ministries of the church, local ministries of the church. We focus mainly on women and children.”
Trinity UMW is comprised of 34 women of varying ages and backgrounds. In a typical year, the group meets once a month to discuss business matters, event planning and where money needs to be distributed in the community.
The women also partake in a program of reading five books, each focusing on a tenant the group upholds — spiritual growth, social action, nurturing the community, leadership development and education for missions, Pearce said.
The group supports various missions, including donating to the United Methodist Council of Relief, which distributes money to areas left devastated by natural disasters, and a special offering hosted once a year to be given to the UMW on a national level and distributed as needed. The women also support community houses and shelters in Knoxville.
Locally, the group volunteers, donates money and hosts drives to benefit the Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County, the Boys & Girls Club of Loudon County, Iva’s Place, local schools and other shelters.
“Our big fundraiser though, we call it the spring sale,” Pearce said. “It’s a giant rummage sale that we hold every spring that brings in enough money to be able to do all these projects we want to do. In 2020, we were not able to hold our spring sale. We are vowing we are going to do it in 2021. It may not be in the spring; it may be in the fall. It may be in the parking lot. But we will hold our rummage sale sometime in 2021. We need to get some money coming so we can do some of these missions because the need doesn’t go away because the pandemic is there. We’re going to do it.”
An important tenant of the group is social action. The women do what they can to be the voice of those who have none and sway legislators into acting in a way that will benefit all.
A couple times a year, Pearce said she will write a letter signed by everyone in the group urging legislators to vote on certain matters that could make a difference for the less fortunate in the community.
“This is something near and dear to my heart is social action because we want to make our (lawmakers) view the legislation on behalf of issues in our society that aren’t working for people we want them to work for,” Pearce said. “We work to, well in maternal mortality, attain a living wage for all, interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and ensure that energy is a just issue for all of us. We are trying to dismantle systems of oppression and build together a better world.”
Jane Whitaker has been an active member for 15 years. She’s a part of the group for missions and fellowship.
“It’s a group that has the mission that I have, which is to provide mission and resources and assistance to particularly women and children in need, both in our community and around the world,” Whitaker said. “It’s a mission-oriented group in the sense of physically providing support, such as making a contribution to the Boys & Girls Club or to Iva’s Place. … The other reason that I like being part of the group is the fellowship of the women. It’s a strong community of women. It’s a way to form friendships and get to know other women in a more deep way.”
Gwen Yerger agreed fellowship is unmatched by any other group she’s been in.
Yerger has been an active member at Trinity for 10 years but has participated in UMW groups at various churches across the country.
“Because of my husband’s jobs, we have moved over the 60 years of our marriage to a lot of towns, and I have always found one good advantage is that there’s always a United Methodist Women’s group in the churches,” she said. “It’s a good place for you to begin to form friendships, and it’s usually people of a variety of ages. Now, I’m 82. … I’m among the oldest in our group, but I think that’s personally one good thing because it puts you in touch with women of different ages.”
Yerger appreciates the hard work the women put in to strengthen the community. She said the ministry gives her an opportunity be involved on the national level.
“I guess the other thing, too — I am a teacher, retired teacher, by profession,” she said. “We really believe in women being educated, and our programs, all of that, gear toward educating women how things are both at our mission sites around the world and locally here. … It just gives you a good opportunity to be in touch with things going on in the community.”