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The Women at the Well United Methodist Church celebrated the contributions of volunteers during an August gathering. The event, held at the Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, brought together volunteers and friends of the ministry that is within the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women.
“We wanted to be able to have an event where we would be able to recognize volunteers whose service was changing,” Rev. Lee Schott, Pastor of Women at the Well, said. “We also wanted to bring people together who are involved in this ministry, to hear each other’s stories and to be reminded of what it is that we do together.”
Speaking of the group of volunteers who were honored, Schott said, “We had six people who, for various reasons, have changed their service significantly. They are who we focused on today.”
“Some have been on our Outside Council, which is like a church board, some have been involved in worship ministry and Bible study at the prison, and some in re-entry, which has been a big focus for us.” Those recognized were Kay Braley, Rev. Diane Eberhart, Dorothy Johnson, Pastor Thom Bryant, Rev. Diane McClanahan, and Rev. Jim Davis.
Rev. Schott talked about the “clothing closet” during her remarks at the gathering. “We have a clothing closed that provides a suitcase of clothing and toiletries and towels and shoes to women who are leaving prison. Otherwise they would just leave with what they are wearing. Some of the women don’t have anything to go out to; what they had is gone, or their size has changed, or they don’t really know where their things are. They get a couple of outfits, but that’s better than leaving in prison clothes.”
She also spoke of the prayer ministry. “Early in the life of Women at the Well Kay Brayley, a lay woman from Grace UMC in Des Moines, began a prayer ministry. She worked with women on the inside who wanted that to happen. She was the leader for many years and added some other folks along the way. It’s an important ministry for those women to be able to come together weekly and share prayer requests and pay attention to answered prayers.”
“Once a month there’s a ‘God’s love’ Bible study that a husband and wife team from Mitchellville lead. That’s a nice small group that meets at a time that we don’t have a lot of activity at the Sacred Place in the prison.”
Rev. Schott described the relationship of the Outside Council and the Inside Council. “Women at the Well is a congregation, which is like other congregations, and unlike other congregations. The women inside can manage some parts of the decision making. There are some things that they can’t, such as financial and personnel items. We have a board that is divided between inside and outside people. Our Outside Council is made up of some clergy and some lay people from around the Iowa Conference who gather together five or six a year.”