First United gives back with winter drive

Published 11:26 am Friday, December 23, 2011

Members of First United Methodist Church in Austin filled this tree with winter outerwear to be donated to the Salvation Army. - Matt Peterson/

Open arms, open hearts, open minds. That’s First United Methodist Church’s motto.

“And I definitely see that when I walk into First Church,” said Sherri Iverson, who leads the church’s hospitality team.

First United Methodist has been reaching out to the community. It recently welcomed members from Fellowship United Methodist, some of whom also joined the hospitality team. From that church, the idea for a winter outerwear drive came to life and has been a success, according to Iverson. The hospitality team hung hats, scarves, mittens and other outerwear on a Christmas tree in the commons of the church, where members have donated enough to fill the tree. Iverson plans to take all those items to the Salvation Army on Friday.

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“We just find that there are so many people out there that are in need, and it can be just little things, just like a pair of gloves or a pair of mittens or a hat,” Iverson said.

She added, “We’ve had such a good response that I think we’ll try to incorporate it every year.”

Among the winter outerwear drive, First United members voluntarily rang bells for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Drive.

“Our hospitality team, what we do is we try to come up with ideas to invite people to come into the church, attend church and possibly join,” Iverson said.

Iverson said its important for churches to reach out to the community, and she is impressed with Austin churches’ drive to do that.

“I really do feel that the churches are a strong point of the community,” she said.

In a time where more people are leaving the older, traditional churches, Iverson said it’s important to let people know that churches, like First United, are still there for them. And some of the people First United Methodist serves may just find a new home at that church.

“Maybe they will find that a church is what they need in their lives,” she said.

The hospitality team hopes to do more things next year to make people aware that First United members’ arms are open. Iverson said she enjoys the relaxed atmosphere and enjoys spending time at the church no matter what is happening. According to her, it’s a very welcoming church for people to join if they are new to town and even if they don’t know any of the members.

“Even during the difficult times, there are a lot of people in First Church that I can just talk to and I really like that.” Iverson said.