Prattville FUMC blesses seminary students through Christmas fundraiser

The Joy You Give -John Greenleaf Whittier

Somehow, not only for Christmas But all the long year through, The joy that you give to others Is the joy that comes back to you.

And the more you spend in blessing The poor and lonely and sad, The more of your heart’s possessing Returns to you glad.

This classic poem by American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier embodies the spirit of the United Methodist Women (UMW) of First United Methodist Church of Prattville, Ala. Each Christmas season since 2010 the women collectively produce and sell over 600 homemade cheeseballs to support seminarians. The proceeds from this annual sale are given in total to the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Foundation, which in six years has totaled gifts of over $23,000. The idea for the cheeseball fundraiser came from another local church, and inspired the UMW of Prattville FUMC to use such a project to fund gifts to missions. “We now sell four flavors of 10-ounce cheeseballs for $10 each: Hawaiian, Party, Blue, and Buffalo Chicken,” says Rita Brown, chair of the Cheeseball Committee since 2013. The fundraiser is the result of the labor of about 30 dedicated individuals broken into two teams. Most of the volunteers involved are members of various UMW circles within the church, but also occasionally include youth. Cheeseballs are mixed, weighed, shaped and wrapped by hand before being frozen. Prior to delivery they are labeled, bagged, and tied with festive seasonal bows. “Most of all, we have lots of fun and fellowship when we gather to make the cheeseballs,” says Brown. The church kicks off the annual sale each September, with the first cheeseball deliveries taking place the week before Thanksgiving and continuing until mid-December. During the kickoff event, Brown emphasizes the reason they are selling cheeseballs: “We remind them that these seminary students are the future of our church and we want to support them,” says Brown. For the first year of the sale, proceeds were donated to multiple area mission agencies, including the Stegall Foundation. However, by the second year it was decided that all proceeds would now be directed to the Stegall Foundation. “We have had several young women in our church respond to God’s call to enter the ordained ministry,” says Brown. “Over the years, our own church has benefited immensely by receiving clergy who had been recipients of Stegall Foundation scholarships. This was our way of giving back for all that we have received.” In addition to a personal connection to young clergy through the church, many members of the UMW group attend the foundation’s annual banquet where students share with donors the impact their gifts and prayers have had on their seminary journey. “After hearing what the support from the Stegall Foundation has meant to each student, it just warms your heart - and occasionally brings you to tears,” says Brown. In choosing to bless the students of the Stegall Foundation through this annual event, the UMW of Prattville FUMC have taken the seemingly simple gift of a bow adorned cheeseball and turned it into a life-changing donation for a seminary student. “The gift we are able to present to the foundation each year may not be huge by some standards, but it provides approximately half of one annual scholarship for an individual student,” says Brown. “We know our donation is making a real difference in the life of one person and that makes all of our efforts worth it.”

Photos below by Luke Lucas.

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