CULLMAN, Ala. – As churches all over Cullman County launch into Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs for area youngsters, one group is gearing up to carry the summer faith tradition to youngsters-at-heart in local nursing homes. Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) volunteers from congregations of the East Cullman Baptist Association will visit the facilities on Thursday and Friday, June 27-28, with the same curriculum they use for their children’s programs, modified for the grown-up crowd but with plenty of elements that will appeal to those still enjoy a little “childlike faith.”
Debbie Dahlke Nail, associational WMU director, shared:
“We go into Folsom Center, Woodland, Hanceville and Cullman Healthcare. We try to go the same day for all of the different nursing homes. We do it for an hour on Thursday and an hour on Friday. The churches that sponsor the nursing home, they have the option of doing whatever theme they choose. But last year, we kind of did our own theme, and we would do a lesson, and sing songs- they love to sing the old hymns- so we don’t try to incorporate the new VBS lingo stuff. We do the hymns, and they love that.
“But the thing that is most popular are the crafts. They love to do the little craft things. And, of course, we have to have the cookies and Kool-Aid at the end!”
“Ultimately, what we like to do is to have enough volunteers for VBS that we can have one volunteer per one or two residents so that we can get personal attention. That way, after we teach a lesson, then our volunteer can talk to them and carry on a conversation about what we just taught, or if there’s anything else that they really want to talk about. And some of them talked about some off-the-wall stuff, but, you know, we’re there for them. This is their hour, and we try to present spiritual things, but then, it’s their hour, too.
“We’re just there for them. We interact with them, we fellowship with them, pray with them a lot of times; it’s really a rewarding opportunity.”
Thinking ahead to Christmas, too
Starting in early November, the Associational WMU will begin gathering items to be given to nursing home residents early in the holiday season, for them to give to their loved ones as Christmas gifts. Residents, who might not be able to get out to shop, will come through a “market” set up in their facility and choose their own gifts, and won’t have to pay one cent.
Nail explained, “We have a Christmas shop and, there again, each of the churches will sponsor a nursing home. We collect anything from socks to pullover sweatshirts, blankets- they love the good, thick, fuzzy blankets- lap robes, jewelry- just costume jewelry, word search puzzles, just all kinds of things, a lot of things that people may just have sitting around home that they can donate.
“The residents come in and the get to ‘shop.’ They can pick up either two or three gifts for family members, and then we wrap them up and they can take them to their rooms to give as their Christmas gifts.”
Nail told the story of one gentleman in late-stage cancer who was helped to the market at his facility, relating that he told volunteers, “‘I just need to get something for my wife.’ He said, ‘She’s up here every day that she can.’ And he looked and looked, and all of a sudden, his mouth just dropped open. There was a little ceramic jewelry box that we had the previous year that had been picked over several times, and that jewelry box was sitting right in the middle of the table and it had a hummingbird on it. His wife collected hummingbirds, and so he was ecstatic whenever he found that, because that was really something personal, with him in his latter days of life- for all intents and purposes- he was able to give her something that was really special.”
Northbrook, Lystra, Duck River and Hopewell Baptist Churches are already committed to the nursing home VBS program, but more volunteers and churches are needed.
The Christmas Shop program will not start taking donations until around the first of November due to storage limitations, but folks can still start making their plans to help. And if you enjoy knitting or weaving, check that note in the Christmas section above about the fuzzy blankets and think about sharing your talent for a worthy cause.
If you’d like to help out with this year’s grown up VBS or the upcoming Christmas Shop, contact the East Cullman Baptist Association at 256-737-9918 or call Nail at 256-338-1566.
Download the event flyer at http://www.eastcullmanbaptist.org/what-s-happening.
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