History of the Thanksgiving Ingathering

November 1, 1980, the campus at Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa was alive with people bringing blankets, kits, animals, and corn. The people were excited, curious, expectant, joyful and full of questions! What is a Bishop's Ingathering? Art Richardson and Bill Appelgate were elated to see the enthusiasm throughout the day, the result of what had been a casual conversation concerning the hunger and poverty around the world when so many were living in luxury. From that conversation, a committee was chosen to plan a day giving people the opportunity to share their abundance. Those on the committee were Bill Appelgate, Dorothy Appelgate, Allen Herrboldt, Dale Thomsen and Ernest Mueller.

 Credit is due June Goldman, one of the first members of the planning committee. Many have shared their talents in so many ways and their work has been appreciated. June continued on as chair of the Conference Ingathering Central Committee for many years. Records show more than 300 clergy and laity attended the first event and raised $44,882 in cash and in kind gifts. The projects being supported were Church World Service, Heifer Project International, Self-Help Tractor, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Iowa Hunger Task Force, and Goodwill Industries. It was the consensus of the committee and Dr. Richardson at the close of the day with so much interest being shown that it was feasible to begin planning a similar event the following year. Bishop Clymer gave the keynote address and Conference Lay Leader Don Ridenour shared in the day's activities at the first celebration. They felt it was one more way to involve all members of the United Methodist Church.

 In January of 1982 the Bishop indicated it would be appropriate to review the Thanksgiving Ingathering program and a group was asked to share their feelings about the program and the results recorded. It was the consensus of that group that a proposal be formulated and presented to Program Review for 1983-84. The 1982 Ingathering could be presented to the Conference Council on Ministries at the March meeting. With the need for more sites because of distance to be traveled and for continuity of sites, a Central Committee was appointed.

The Bishop found it was impossible to attend the program most years due to conflicts, and since it was mainly a laity program, it was decided it should be a part of the Board of Laity. After discussion, it was renamed Thanksgiving Ingathering. Eventually plans were made to supply animals and grain for Heifer Project so an area was designed for the "5 Baas", "3 Bunters", "10 Hopping Multipliers", and a few Grunters". A semi load of corn that had been donated by area farmers was delivered to Arkansas as well.

In time, it was decided it was not good stewardship and with the difficulty making the deliveries churches were asked to donate cash instead of corn. It was announced in 1983 there would be two sites, the second one to be held at Mt. Pleasant to accommodate people in other areas of the conference. In 1985 there were three sites, Mt. Pleasant, LeMars, and Greenfield. In 1987 the Waverly site was added and finally in 1992 a fifth site was added at Humboldt and an enthusiastic crowd assured the Central Committee this should continue.

In a short time craft items were added to the gifts shared and participants were roaming the craft room during the day purchasing items. "Preacher Pies" have been auctioned some years, adding to the entertainment of the day. Many educational videos and displays have helped inform people of the mission work of the United Methodist Church. Guest speakers have often been missionaries or workers from some of the projects supported. Luncheons, loading truck, sorting kits, displaying quilts and many necessary responsibilities involve those attending each year. Proof again that, "There are plenty of rules for attaining success, but none of them work unless you do!" Changes were made over the years as the committee saw ways to improve plans and increase giving. One was the decision to have quilt auctions since so many beautiful quilts were donated. Many of these went to areas that had no way to care for them and Church World Service blankets were much more serviceable. The auction proved to be profitable and entertaining. When a quilt sold for $1,000 at Westmar one year, it was a record to be broken. It was in 1999 when another large beautiful quilt sold at Greenfield for $3,100. The number of quilts sold at auction has steadily increased and woodcraft items have been added at some sites.

The addition of computers to tally the gifts of the day made it possible to give a report throughout the day of the totals and remind people how close the giving is to the challenge presented. Progress! Goodwill trucks on the grounds at each site were soon loaded and for many years King Transfer volunteered to haul the kits to the east coast. The youth have been a great help in all the hours required to sort, unload the donations, sort and load again. They have contributed their talents to the program of the day as well. Bishop Job was the guest speaker one year at the Greenfield site and expressed it so well when he said, "Even today the mighty voice of God cries out. Unbind him and set him free." His words continue to be true each year as people bring their gifts and share in worship and praise.

The stories of the blessings received when the sea container arrives in Nigeria are heart- warming and uplifting. Or the school kit received by a child in another part of the world may be the inspiration to help him or her become a leader needed to serve God and you helped with his or her education. Families have watched all their possessions wash away in floods and have been so grateful for help and material to start over. Since there are still so many in the world who have no need of a suitcase because they have nothing to put in it, our goal must be to be a part of the answer to their needs and not a part of the problem. Remembering the task ahead is never as great as the power behind it, we look to the future and may we never lose sight of our purpose. The Thanksgiving Ingathering is a manifestation of God's loving kindness in addressing hunger problems locally and around the world. Luke 6:31 admonishes us "to do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This outpouring of goods, cash and self reflects our peoples' desire to serve our risen Savior.

The Thanksgiving Ingathering at this time is called a Task Force and is an "extension" ministry of the Conference Board of Laity. Membership of the Task Force is made up of Chairs and Coordinators, District Ingathering Representatives, Ingathering Site Chairs, Project representatives, Conference Council on Ministries staff, and members at large. The Task Force oversees and guides each of the five Ingathering sites. Committees that constitute the Task Force are Policy, Publicity, Finance, Projects, and Nominating. The committees establish the criteria for dispersing unrestricted funds, establish rules for site committees, determine credit for churches, and recommend amendments to the Policy Statement. They operate under the direction of the Thanksgiving Ingathering Policies booklet that is updated by a two-thirds majority vote of those present at the Task Force meeting. The Task Force members have the Policies booklet at their disposal. It is available to others if requested. Conference Coordinators and Task Force Chair of the Thanksgiving Ingathering: (As stated in the Policies booklet, Conference Coordinators are elected for a two-year term with a maximum of two terms. It is recommended that the Conference Coordinator(s) assume the Task Force Chair responsibility after their term).

June Goldman was Chair of Conference Ingathering Central Committee from the beginning until passing it on to Clair and Phyllis Allen. June was Task Force Chair during Allens' years as Coordinators. Claire and Phyllis Allen were Coordinators 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and Chairs 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. Darrell and Carol Needham were Coordinators 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and Chairs 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003. Don and Caroline Kluver were Coordinators 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and Chairs 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007. Gene and Lois Novak were Coordinators 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and Chairs 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. Gaylen and Ranee Goettsch were Coordinators 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and Chairs beginning in 2012. Dan and Jean Houston were Coordinators beginning in 2012. Jean passed away in April of 2013 and Dan chose not to accept a second term nomination. Brenda Mayer became Coordinator for a two-year term beginning in 2014 with Galen and Ranee Goettsch beginning their second two year term.

Thanksgiving Ingatherings are held each year on the first Saturday in November. Site locations for 2006 are: Northwest, WIT Convention Center in Cherokee; North Central, Asbury UMC in Webster City; Northeast, 1st United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls; Southeast, Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant; Southwest, Greenfield United Methodist Church in Greenfield. From $44,882 in 1980 to $1,619,000 in 2000, who knows the limit that can be reached in the next millennium? In 2001 used clothing credit was entirely eliminated. This category had grown to $786,000 by 2000.

In 2003 we received $277,000 in cash plus kits of $559,000, totaling $836,000. In 2004 $356,822 cash and in-kind value of $627,942, totaling $984,764, was received. In 2005 $433,000 cash and in-kind value of $789,000, totaling $1,220,000 (including Hurricanes Rita and Katrina relief giving) was received. Totals for 2006 were $333,089 cash and $643,058 in-kind value for a total of $976,147. Although the totals have remained fairly constant since 2005, the one million mark was exceeded in 2011 with $333,966 cash and $668,628 in kind for a total of $1,002,594. The totals increased in 2012 and again in 2013, reaching $1,031,102 with cash of $360,044 and in kind of $670,971. It isn't the thing we get my friend, and it isn't how much we know. It's the will to serve, It's the hand we lend, It's the light, which our lanterns throw. December 2003, updated 12/06, 12/11 and 3/14.