Jacksonville church’s ‘UMCOR Room’ meets needs year-round

Colleen Van Nostrand cuts flannel to make a jacket that will become part of an UMCOR Layette Kit. First UMC Jacksonville’s UMCOR Room has been the starting point for countless layettes and more than 10,000 School Kit bags, in addition to sewing projects related to several other ministries. PHOTO BY JOYCE WHITE

Colleen Van Nostrand cuts flannel to make a jacket that will become part of an UMCOR Layette Kit. First UMC Jacksonville’s UMCOR Room has been the starting point for countless layettes and more than 10,000 School Kit bags, in addition to sewing projects related to several other ministries.
PHOTO BY JOYCE WHITE

For about nine years now, members of First United Methodist Church Jacksonville have kept an area of their facility dedicated to working with fabric in the name of ministry, primarily by making supplies to send to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Four years ago, the arrangement became more formal when a new building included a space bearing the name “the UMCOR Room.”

While UMCOR Room workers do take on local projects—such as a quilt to benefit the Open Arms shelter in nearby Cabot; prayer shawls for ailing church members and friends; and head coverings for chemotherapy patients at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences—their handiwork reaches people in need all over the world. In particular, they produce baby sweaters or jackets for UMCOR Layette Kits, and have supplied more than 10,000 of the bags that hold the contents of UMCOR School Kits.

“We were down there one year and they had run out of bags,” says Joyce White, a member of First UMC Jacksonville who makes an annual mission trip to Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana. “And we decided we could do that here—we could sew bags for them. So every year we take unfilled bags down so they’re available whenever they want to fill them, because they can go through 14 or 15,000 in a week’s time if they’re doing a shipment.”

The vast majority of the supplies in the UMCOR Room come from the generosity of church members and friends.

“Everything has been donated, and some money, as well,” said Colleen Van Nostrand, a regular UMCOR Room worker. “We get fabric—people say, ‘Mother died, and she had this room full of fabric,’ and we say ‘Thank you,’ and we take it. And if we can’t use it, we give it to somebody else who can.”

The two women have started a beginner’s sewing class open to anyone interested in learning. As they teach, they hope to gain some more workers with enthusiasm for the UMCOR Room’s mission.