By Mary Elizabeth Dial
Gadsden First United Methodist church continued its proud tradition of the annual Gifts to Gadsden workshops this week, providing free classes to the community on topics ranging from Beginner Knitting to Understanding Wills and Power of Attorney.
Gifts to Gadsden began at GFUMC over two decades ago as a way for church members to share their talents with the community and was held on the evenings of July 25 – 28. Directors Jennifer Jackson and Tim Staton are proud of this year’s turnout, and with good reason. Approximately 145 people reserved spots in the 15 classes offered for the 2016 session.
“There were several that were already full [as of Monday evening],” said Jackson. Varied class capacities made it difficult to tell which were the most popular, but the highest demand seemed to be for Alan and Ginger Ross’ Ballroom Dancing.
The 2016 session was the first time Jackson had volunteered to organize the popular event. She gave the credit for its success to the members of GFUMC who brought a wide variety of skills and hobbies to the event, including basic car maintenance and mahjong.
“We’re just very grateful for all of the instructors, [for] our members giving of their talent and resources to give back to Gadsden,” she. Instructors were all volunteers, which allowed Gifts to Gadsden to provide classes free of charge to the community.
Joan Fellows was one of the 145 Gadsden residents who took advantage of this opportunity. She enrolled in Lana Beck’s Beginner Quilting class as a way to connect with the memory of her mother and with her own grandchildren, and said she planned to give the quilt she made to the newest baby in her family. Although she initially struggled with her needle, she said the friendly atmosphere of Mrs. Beck’s class made it easy to persevere.
Only one class was canceled due to lack of interest: How to Get and Keep a Job. While this was disheartening, co-director Tim Staton kept his sense of humor.
“What we should have done is changed the name to How to Get a Pokémon, ” he joked, referring to the small crowd of teenagers playing Pokémon Go outside the church. The failure of this class clearly did not dampen the spirits of Gifts to Gadsden organizers.
The blow of the one canceled class was also softened by the introduction of two new ones: Kitchen Cabinet Design and Hands-Only CPR, the latter of which Jackson herself sponsored. She praised the inclusion of the class as one of the many courses that gave people important, even potentially lifesaving skills.
“There’s a lot individuals can do to help without being certified [in CPR],” Jackson explained. The American Heart Association sent an instructor to Gifts to Gadsden to teach basic emergency responses and educate people about what they can do in life-threatening situations.
With another year in the books, Jackson is looking to the future of Gifts to Gadsden. Her primary goal for the coming years is to get more people involved by diversifying the classes that will be offered.
“We’re always looking to expand the classes,” she explained. Jackson plans to survey class attendees to discover what skills they want to learn in the future, and then seek out church members who can teach those skills.
“Sometimes people may not realize they have knowledge in a certain area, or that they can teach a class an give back,” said Jackson. She wants church and community members to know how easy and fun it can be to enrich their city through their own talents and time.