Celebrating United Methodist Women

Thanks to a wonderful volunteer and former employee, Pam Mathews, one of our storage closets has been neatly organized. In the midst of the cleaning, Pam discovered some great photographs from the early days of Cunningham Children's Home. Several of them remind me of the hundreds of amazing women who have served alongside our staff and prayed for our kids for the last 121 years. 
 
In this photo, taken in the 1920's, the faithful United Methodist Women (UMW) are delivering canned goods for our youth. I've heard stories from the adult children of UMW who remember their moms canning for their family then dividing the amount in half to make sure the kids at Cunningham had plenty to eat. That's generosity. And a wonderful example of the relationship we've shared with UMW.
You see, in the 1940's, the UMW petitioned the federal government for a much needed building, but it was war time and everything was rationed. For them, it didn't matter. They knew the need and they were going to take care of the children at Cunningham. And they did!
Our past is full of groundbreakings...and our future will be too! Cunningham is preparing to build a much-needed school and gym, the Education and Recreation Center (ERC). The UMW are working alongside us in order to give our students greater academic success by providing a learning environment that meets their behavioral and special education needs. The ERC campaign is moving forward with plans to begin building in July of 2017.
 
Cunningham became a mission and ministry of the UMW when Judge Joseph and Mary Cunningham deeded their home to the women (then the women of the Methodist Episcopal Church, now UMW). The Cunningham's felt confident that the UMW would sustain great care for the needs of the children. Over the years, many things have changed, but our vision-to see every child thrive-has remained constant because of their leadership.
 
Over the next few months, multiple churches across the Illinois Great Rivers Conference will celebrate the service of their UMW units. We join them with deep appreciation for the prayers, love and giving spirits of UMW. Although we no longer accept canned goods for our youth to eat, the women generously provide modern day gifts. We call them Hope Gifts and they come in the form of socks, underwear, body wash, deodorant, gift cards, and so much more. These women also work tirelessly on our behalf, volunteering at events, serving on our Boards and committees, making quilts for our kids, and sharing our stories with friends and family. 
 
As the author of the Message, Eugene Peterson, writes in Proverbs 11:24: The world of the generous gets larger and larger. UMW, you are a living example of that word. We celebrate all you have done and will continue to do. May God bless you immensely!
Sharla Jolly
Director of Advancement