Church: Normandale Hylands UMC
District: Twin Cities
Submitted by: Joyce Reinke
When temperatures dipped below zero in January, a member of the Normandale Hylands United Methodist Church's Church and Society Team thought about the families she would see when volunteering at Bridging, a non-profit that helps transition homeless people into permanent housing. She knew that warm blankets for all sizes of beds hadn't been given out in recent months. She found the idea for a blanket drive on the Bridging MN website and realized it was an opportunity to help some of the more than 13,000 people Bridging serves each year.
Before the team's next meeting, she sent an e-mail asking whether anyone thought a blanket drive would be a good idea. The idea struck a nerve with one member, who immediately came up with an idea. "Let’s 'Warm the Bench' on Super Bowl Sunday with blankets for Bridging!" Benches (church pews) were decorated for each of the football teams participating in the Super Bowl. The congregation was then invited to “warm the bench” of their favorite team with a new or gently used clean blanket.
The team loved the idea (and it didn’t hurt that the temperature was 7 below the evening of their meeting.) But there was one concern: There were only 19 days until Super Bowl Sunday, and two of the promoters were going out of town for a week. They decided to do it anyway, and are now very glad they did.
Here's how the team set up the event:
1. On Monday, Jan. 25, after the Super Bowl teams were determined, team members set up and decorated the benches for opposing teams with signage to explain the event. The benches were placed in the gathering space outside the sanctuary, so they were easily visible. The team placed a few blankets on the benches to get things rolling.
2) Information about the blanket drive was e-mailed in the church's weekly update, included in the monthly newsletter, and placed in the Sunday worship bulletin. The big push happened during the announcements on the Sunday before the Super Bowl. A North Carolina fan gave the announcement and a Broncos fan was in the sound booth to banter back and forth.
3) Blankets began filling the benches days in advance. By Super Bowl Sunday, Rev. Rhodie Jacobson was wondering if the benches would collapse.
4) The Monday following the Super Bowl, team members sorted the blankets by size, counted them, and delivered 90 new and gently used clean blankets to the Bridging location in Bloomington.
The successful event took a minimum of effort for planning and implementing and came together quickly as a result of teamwork. Members of the church had fun filling the benches, and the best part is knowing 90 people will have a warm blanket to snuggle under when the Minnesota winds blow cold.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church