‘Day on, not Off’

Dr. King’s memory honored by Concord UMC as part of a several-day ‘Mission Blitz’

Concord United Methodist Church kept the memory of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive before, during and even after the holiday celebration of his birthday — Monday, Jan. 15 — by making what holiday organizers have long hoped to achieve: “a day on, not a day off.”

The church actually expanded on that admonition through several days of service as part of its fourth annual “Mission Blitz,” which started early Saturday, Jan. 13.

A total of 657 church members and volunteers bagged meals and potatoes, sorted clothing, painted, sewed, marched and served hundreds locally and globally through their efforts.

“We do it in conjunction with MLK Day, as a national day of service, but it has taken on a life of its own,” Concord UMC Director of Missions Jane Currin said. “It has grown every year — the spirit has been great and people have just had a real fever to serve.”

The Blitz kicked off at the church Jan. 13, where 164 individuals braved 23-degree temperatures to separate and bag 36,000 pounds of potatoes for a “Crop Drop,” a ministry the church provides several times a year. The potatoes then were shared locally and regionally with 12 church pantries, 13 food pantries, five shelters and countless needy individuals.

Later that morning, 16 volunteers worked at Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries, sorting donated items, and yet another group primed and painted stairways and bathrooms at Wesley House Community Center in downtown Knoxville.

Other volunteers worked that afternoon, assembling school kits and dry soup mixes for the United Methodist Committee on Relief and assembling dry soups for Shepherd of Hope Food Pantry and “Wesley House Grannies.”

Almost all of the Blitz projects had wide-ranging opportunities for service.

“We work with different people, of all different ages,” Currin said of the volunteer pool. “It is a great opportunity for all of us to work together. We have had several whose names I recognized, and some I had never seen before.”

She was also quick to credit her many assistants who helped lead each individual projects.

“We could not have done all this without them,” she said.

Volunteers were right back to work early Monday, when 13 church members marched in the MLK Parade in downtown Knoxville.

That afternoon, 240 assembled back at the church for the largest component of the weekend — packaging 25,000 meals for Raleigh-based international Rise Against Hunger.

Schools receive many of the packets: in some cases, children are sent to school just to ensure they receive at least one meal for the day, Currin said.

Volunteers, all wearing reddish-orange hair nets, worked quickly assembling what were relatively small clear packages of enriched rice, soy protein, dried vegetables and 23 essential vitamins and nutrients. Once water is added, each bag can feed up to six people, according to organizers.

Two other projects also simultaneously took place: bagging potato soup and cutting 1,541 net bags for future crop drops.

Monday did not entirely wrap up all the Mission Blitz’s scheduled events: a Greenback roof repair and litter pickup along Campbell Station Road were both rescheduled due to cold temperatures.

The sunny weather this past Saturday, Jan. 20, was much more conducive to the litter pickup, and eight volunteers worked for a couple of hours on the project.

Currin said the church’s Adopt A Mile portion lies along South Campbell Station Road from Kingston Pike to Concord Road, where cleanup takes place four times a year.

She said she was “more than pleased” with this year’s Blitz, which church leaders are looking to possibly expand.

“Next year, we may add Sunday service projects, involving the youth groups,” she said. “That is the main way we see to grow it.”

Currin said the annual project is a big one, but the church also has continuous service and mission projects.

“We really stress our Mission Blitz, but we are working and serving all the time,” she said,

Concord UMC’s numerous ministry programs also includes a local partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, along with ongoing assistance to hurricane-ravaged Florida and other states in need.

The church also is planning for a stove-building mission trip to Guatemala this summer.