The Witt House: A Ministry of Paragould FUMC

The Witt House: A Ministry of Paragould FUMC

Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

When Paragould First United Methodist Church was built in 1926, it sat on the corner of a lot near downtown and was surrounded on all sides by modest family homes. One of those homes belonged to the family of Emma Nell “Emmy” Witt, long-time church member, choir director, and all-around favorite. Even several years after her passing, she is still talked about with much emotion by those who knew her well in church and the school where she worked as a coach and mentor.

When Witt died in 2010, something special needed to be done with her home which was just steps away from the church. Emmy’s mother, Cora, had served families experiencing difficult times out of her kitchen and since Emmy inherited her mother’s love of serving others, it was a natural extension to turn her family home into a food pantry named appropriately The Witt House. 

In 2011, before the original Witt house had to be demolished, people from the community would enter this friendly space by crossing the front porch and entering the front door that Emmy walked in her whole life. Where her family once sat in their living room, clients were now sitting while they waited to pick up food. She would have loved knowing that her old refrigerator was kept full of food for hungry people in need.

Today, the Witt House has maintained its name even though the location has changed. Another home was saved and remodeled to be the new feeding ministry place. It is located on the corner of Garland and 5th Streets across from the church parking lot. Volunteers from First United Methodist Church in Paragould serve clients each Tuesday evening and Friday morning throughout the year. The pantry is open to anyone who needs food, and families can receive this assistance once a month.

One of the highlights that set apart this food pantry is the dignified approach to selection and choice. Each family is allowed to choose items that they want from a menu that can change weekly. The menu consists of non-perishable food items, canned foods, dairy selections, fresh produce, a variety of meat proteins, bread, and sometimes bakery items as they become available.

It takes a team of volunteers to keep the Witt House open and full of food choices. Some of these volunteer roles include picking up food at various marketplaces, shelf organization, filling menu orders when the pantry is open, and the front-line volunteers who meet the families and help them plan their menu choices.

“We have a lot of fun with what we do,” said John Shepherd, volunteer produce coordinator. “It is also very humbling to see the need. There is a huge mission field out there.”

Last year, the Witt House served 2,023 households representing 7,093 individuals all from the Greene county area.

The Witt House has also begun giving away books to children as part of a larger connection to an initiative of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. 200,000 More Reasons is a special ministry serving the entire state of Arkansas that provides grants and resources to local feeding ministries that encourage literacy and family stability for neighbors.

Reverend Chase Burns, associate pastor of FUMC Paragould shared, “Over the past three years, I have witnessed our teams adapt and continue to ‘dream and dream bigger’ as they not only provide nutritional items to our neighbors but engage with our neighbors to develop life-long relationships and share the light of Christ in their efforts.”

Paragould First United Methodist Church is located at 404 West Main Street, Paragould, AR, 72450. The Senior Pastor is Rev. Dane Womack and the Associate Pastor is Rev. Chase Burns. The District Superintendent for northeast Arkansas is Rev. John Fleming and the episcopal leader for Arkansas is Bishop Gary Mueller. To learn more about this church the website is

Contributed by Karoline Risker, Technology & Communication Director at Paragould UMC

Obituary – Rev. Andy Newbill

Rev. Andy Newbill
April 19, 1941 – February 28, 2022

Rev. Andrew Lewis Newbill, who resided in Charleston, Arkansas, passed away Sunday, February 27, 2022, in his home. He was born on April 19, 1941, in Pueblo, Colorado, to the late Andrew A. Newbill and Lucille G. (Monk) Newbill. He was 80 years old. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Gary Newbill.

He served in the United States Navy, was a member of the American Legion in Charleston, and was a retired United Methodist preacher of the Arkansas Conference.

Memorial services will be held at 2:00 pm, Saturday, March 12th at First United Methodist Church in Charleston, Arkansas, with Rev. Claire Caldwell officiating, under the direction of Brotherton Brothers Funeral Home and Flower Shop in Charleston. 

He is survived by his wife DeNese Newbill of the home; four daughters, Ginger Eberhart and husband Jeff of Georgia, Candi Nixon and husband Jerry of Arkansas, Holly Kinser and husband Randy of Arkansas, and Kristy Newbill of Alabama; a brother, Rod Newbill of Hot Springs; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; three nephews; and two nieces.

Honorary Pallbearers are Don Smith, Stanley Wells, Danny Baldwin, Rod Newbill and Bill Wise.

In lieu of flowers please make memorial contributions in honor of Andy to: First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 35 Charleston, AR 72933. Designate your choice of FUMC Men’s Sign Fund or Shoal Creek Camp fund. 

To place an online tribute, please visit 

Application Deadline Extended for Church and Society Summer Internship Program for College Students of Color

The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church (UMC) announced that applications for the Ethnic Young Adult Internship (EYA) 2022 program have been extended to March 20, 2022. EYA internships offer students of color experience working in Washington, D.C. with GBCS and partner organizations for social advocacy and justice.

“EYA Interns participate in weekly seminars exploring faith, identity, and various justice issues. They are introduced to The United Methodist Church’s history of social action and our United Methodist Social Principles. EYA Interns learn from staff about the work of justice, peace, and advocacy and engage in weekly devotions and opportunities for faith formation and vocational discernment,” explained The Rev.  Katie Monfortte, GBCS Education Program Coordinator.

This year, the EYA program is scheduled for June 5 through July 30, 2022.

“The lasting impact on my development cultivated the idea that spiritual and professional growth can be connected,” says Litany Esguerra a Filipino-American EYA program alumni. “EYA was a driving factor in demonstrating how my internship focus can be interpreted in a modern context through scripture and social justice.”

During the eight-week program, EYA interns are paid and receive full housing in Washington, D.C. directly across from the United States Supreme Court on Capitol Hill.

“My time with EYA and living in D.C. was an energizing experience,” continued Esguerra. “This energy led me to pursue an internship with the Obama Foundation; work abroad in rural community healthcare with an NGO in Jamkhed, India; and pursue a master’s degree in disability studies at the University of Leeds in the UK.”

For students to qualify for the EYA Program they must:

  • Be a member of The United Methodist Church
  • Be 18 to 22 years old (Central Conference interns are accepted up to 24 years old)
  • Be at the academic level of rising sophomore, junior or senior in college/university studies or employed full-time
  • Show active leadership and participation in the local church/community and involvement in social justice activities
  • Self-identify as a person of color

All qualified students are encouraged to apply before March 20, 2022. For the full program description and application information visit:


My Heart is Heavy

My heart is heavy today as my beloved United Methodist Church expends untold energy to divide. Certainly, there are real issues. Important issues. Perhaps even issues that cannot be addressed in any other way, although I am not yet ready to give up. We are doing this in a world that is deeply divided to the point of polarization, and is filled with unfathomable human suffering, war, broken lives and hopelessness. And I keep asking myself, “How can a broken body possibly bring healing, wholeness and hope to a broken world? Lord, in your mercy, send your Holy Spirit to convict us, break us, and transform us so that we are truly the Body of Christ. 

A Sunday Prayer

Dear Lord,

Today we pray for the people of Ukraine as they continue to face a brutal invasion by Russia.

We pray for those courageous citizens who are resisting the invasion of their nation. Protect them as they seek to protect their beloved country. We pray for President Zelensky as he shows the world what it means to be a servant leader. Encourage him as he leads his people in these perilous days. We pray for those around the world who are speaking out against Russian aggression, including Russian citizens who do so at their own peril, and those who are acting to help Ukraine counter the Russian incursion. Embolden them to act swiftly and decisively to help end this tragedy.

We pray that Your Holy Spirit will change President Putin’s heart so he repents and ends his sinful actions. We pray that Russian citizens will rise up and pressure their leaders to stop this madness. We pray that tomorrow’s meeting between Ukrainian and Russian delegations will help end the violence.

But even as we pray these things, Lord, we pray for the peace that we know is Your will. Peace for Ukraine. Peace for Your world mired in violence. And peace in our own hearts so that those of us who call the Prince of Peace our Lord and Savior will be peacemakers.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.