Profile 2020: Rotary Honors Methodist Women

By REV. JIM WOODS,

All too often, in many things of life, we take much for granted, and leave unexpressed the thanks and appreciation for the many blessings we enjoy. 

But today, we want to break out of our usual habits, and tell you ladies of First United Methodist UMW how much we appreciate you, and your faithful service in providing our weekly lunch.  THANK YOU!

There are many parts that make Rotary Rotary. 

We are described as a “service club.” 

But that ideal of service is founded on the friendship and fellowship of the members of the club.  And everyone knows you can’t have fellowship without FOOD!

Without the opportunity to come together and enjoy your wonderful meals, to visit, to laugh, to learn, to be challenged—we would be a very dry organization.  And it’s worth noting that your meals are good—what we take for granted is quickly noticed by our guest speakers and guests. 

We proudly bring them to join us for what we know is going to be an enjoyable time.  The consistency of our meals at our weekly gatherings is one of the main reasons our club has lasted for almost 100 years. 

So we are honored to have YOU as OUR guests today, to thank you for your service, that has so richly enhanced our club’s service.

Not only do we thank you individuals who are currently serving on the cooking teams, but we also want to recognize the legacy you represent—the wonderful ministry to your church—that is almost as old as our club itself.

Our Rotary club was founded in 1923.  Its first meetings were at the American Legion Home, then Pitts Hotel, a few meetings at Sid Hogin’s Restaurant, and then the Craig Hotel.  But in 1926, Rotary moved to the Methodist Church, where it has met ever since, and YOU have been feeding Rotarians all that time—93 years!

That predates this building—which was completed in 1928.  But from 1926 until 1934, the church had no kitchen, and the ladies cooked all the dishes in their homes, and then brought them to the church, along with their own serving dishes and silverware.  In 1934 the church installed some ovens and a kitchen in the area back where the sofa and chairs are.  That was the kitchen for about 40 years.

Most of you have probably heard the Jerry Clower story about how a building had caught on fire and all the locals’ efforts to put out the blaze were so futile that they were just standing around in despair when they heard the wail of the siren on a rural volunteer fire department truck.  The firetruck never slowed as it approached, scattering the gathered crowd, and finally came to a stop almost within the burning building. Immediately the firefighters jumped off and in a frenzy extinguished that roaring blaze. 

The mayor was so taken by their bravery and efficiency that he offered their captain a generous reward.  And then as an afterthought, the mayor asked what they might do with the reward money.  The captain quickly replied, “The first thing we’re going to do is get the brakes fixed on the fire truck!”

Though the church history doesn’t specifically say it, I’ll bet the Methodist women exerted a lot of influence in getting the first kitchen in the church, and I know that through the years you have used some of the funds you have earned to upgrade and refurbish that kitchen, and then the current one, added in 1974, which also has seen numerous upgrades and refurbs.

There has been a lot of interest and a lot of pride in the lengthy service of you church ladies.  In 1952 there was an article, written by Marie Hemphill, in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, noting your almost 30 years of serving.  There was a picture of Mrs. Tom Pitts, Mrs. Carl Bethea, Mrs. W. J. Heslep, and Mrs. Barry Wood.  A most interesting side note to this is that presently, there are two third-generation Rotary servers—Barry McWilliams, who is the granddaughter of Mrs. Barry Wood and daughter of Libber McGregor, and Janet Webb, who is the granddaughter of Mrs. Walton Gresham, and the daughter of Georgia Ann McPherson, who, we are proud to say, is still serving and making her wonderful homemade rolls. 

Barry and Johnny McWilliams found this Commercial Appeal story among some treasures passed on to them, and Johnny has made copies that he will distribute to you.

In 1958 John Hough compiled a history of the Indianola Rotary Club, and in it he had this to say about you:

“This volume would not be complete without a hymn of praise being voiced to the ladies of the Methodist Church.  For more than 30 years they have served us meals that have made our club the mecca for Rotarians from near and far who find they must make up an attendance.  Their unfailing response to all our needs and their wonderful good humor in the face of any emergency have endeared them to us—one and all—ladies, we adore you, and we feel we could not exist without you!”

Bill Gresham’s President Report for 1957-58 also praises the Methodist ladies who “serve us the very best meals which mean so much to our attendance.”

In 1976, in her history of Sunflower County—Fever, Floods, and Faith—Marie Hemphill recounts the history of the Rotary club and credits the Methodist Women who fed the members almost from its inception.

In 2004 there was a feature about you in The Enterprise-Tocsin, celebrating your almost 78 years of service.  At that time, Adelaide Fletcher was the overall chairman of the cooking teams, and she’s still going strong.  The article also talks about how you put the money you’ve earned back into the church and its mission.  I know that our Honduras Mission Team has received your support for over 30 years.  And you’ve certainly had a ministry to us Rotarians.

There’s a verse in the Bible in the book of Hebrews that says, “Show hospitality to strangers—you may have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  I don’t know how many “angels” you’ve served through the years, but you’ve certainly shown us hospitality and earned your angel wings.

One of my early memories of Rotary was enjoying a particular lunch. I know we had the coconut cake that day and talking with Bill McGuire.  This was after his wife Linda’s unfortunate accident, and he was enjoying the meal with relish.  He said, “I look forward to this all week.  This is the best meal I get!”

LADIES, WE THANK YOU!

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