History of the Thanksgiving Ingathering

It was a young Director of Church Relations at Westmar College (UMC) who first wondered, “How can we bring the campus and local church together in such a way that each would grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ?” MISSION! That was the key. And not just one mission, but missions locally, conference-wide and internationally.

Not long after that, Dr. Arthur Richardson was attending a bell choir concert in Cedar Falls, IA when he spotted Bill Applegate also in attendance. Following the concert Richardson approached Applegate (Representative of Heifer Project, International) and asked what he thought of the idea. Together the two worked to transform the dream into reality.

The first Bishop’s Ingathering occurred on the campus of Westmar College, LeMars, Iowa on November 1, 1980. Together with June Goldman, the first Chair of the Ingathering (who served for many years) they watched as cars from arrived from around northwest Iowa bringing kits, blankets, and even animals and corn! UMCOR, Church World Service, Heifer Project, Self-Help Tractor, Iowa Hunger Task Force and Goodwill Industries were the first recipients to receive both cash and gifts-in-kind. Records show that more than 300 clergy and laity attended the event that raised $44,882.

In 1982, the program presented a report to the Program Review for 1982-1984.  It was determined that more sites in Iowa to address great distances.  A Central Committee was appointed with June Goldman as its Chair.  As it was primarily a program of the laity and the Bishop was not always able to attend, it was agreed to link the event to the Board of Laity.  At that time the name was then changed to “Thanksgiving Ingathering.”

Soon craft items, “Preacher Pies,” woodcarvings (high value), and quilts were added to the auction.  When 1 quilt sold for $1,000 at Westmar, it was a record to be broken.  In 1999, another exquisite quilt sold at Greenfield for $3,100!

  • Create a synergy in mission support that Involves more churches in more missions
  • Raise an average of $20,000 per mission
  • Bring missional support into focus on the Local, National and International scenes.
  • Involve and train millennials to be meaningfully active In the ministries of a local church.

Around the venue there began to appear a host of educational videos and displays informing attendees of the missional work of the United Methodist Church. Guest speakers included itinerating missionaries, representatives of the various projects and the founder, Dr. Richardson. College-aged youth arrived for an overnight of fellowship and training to lead the packing and truck-loading tasks the following morning.

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