“There is nothing in my life more rewarding than helping people in need with the basics of a stable existence.”

United Methodist Women (UMW) is the largest denominational faith organization for women with approximately 800,000 members whose mission is fostering spiritual growth, developing leaders and advocating for justice. Members raise up to $20 million each year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the U.S. and countries around the world. Each year the UMW of First Methodist recognize and honor members who have served through our church and in the community. Congratulations to the 2017 UMW Service Award recipients: Bess Mitchell, Ann Wilson, Fran & Steve Shurtz, and Glenn Kidder! Thank you for your service and your stories. 


Having been raised in the Roman Catholic Church, I was completely unfamiliar with any Protestant faith, including Methodism, until introduced to it by my wife, Fran, a lifelong Methodist. I recall being fascinated by the freedom of belief and the clear exhortation to service, which my former theology seemed to have relegated to the clergy and the nuns. The opportunity to serve others more directly appealed to me.

With my background in landscape design and construction, plus a familiarity with tools and building, I found United Methodist Men to be an immediate fit–one where I could explore and expand my newfound spirituality through study and service. I spent over 20 years helping with work days, barbeques, and many, many UMM efforts.

In the late ‘80s Rev. Phil Woodland introduced us to the Appalachia Service Project (ASP), and my view of service changed markedly. ASP provided me with the opportunity to directly meet and work alongside those whom I was helping. There is nothing in my life more rewarding than helping people in need with the basics of a stable existence. The ASP motto, “warmer, safer, drier” has helped me realize that for many people, even safety and simple comfort are beyond their reach. Originally working with church youth groups at ASP, I found great joy and satisfaction in helping young people grow in confidence, skills, and the development of sound service ethics. Later, working with adult teams enhanced my own views toward service.

Following the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Fran & I were part of the small team of FUMC members who organized Project NOAH and began to take the ASP principles to the people of our own state, whose needs were abruptly made similar to the many families we had assisted in Appalachia.

Later, my love of working with young people led me to become a Sunday school teacher for middle–and high–school students. The shift from physical development to spiritual development led me to improve my own relationship with God in the process of guiding the youth.

In recent years I have tried to remain as engaged as possible in the service areas of our church: Revive 225, Cafe 930 and other church programs, as I am able to participate. I find that being a part of a vibrant church community is of particular value in learning to seek God’s love and grace in the widest variety of opportunities.

I have found that, over time, my spiritual views have been broadened, strengthened, and invigorated through service work. Believing as I do that God is present in all of us, my service on behalf of the United Methodist Church has brought me closer to, and enriched my relationship with Him as well as many wonderful people who share His grace with me.