We love our LWR Ingathering Key Leaders: Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee

Lutheran World Relief collections, often called Ingatherings, are key to getting thousands of quilts and kits to LWR's warehouses for processing, packing and shipping overseas. LWR Key Leaders, the committed volunteers that manage the details of the Ingatherings, are unsung heroes of this ministry. In this series, we highlight some of those special people and the ways they make their local collections happen. 

To say Janice Hawkins is an organized person is an understatement. A pharmacist by profession, Janice is used to managing lots of details and ensuring accuracy in everything she does, well-qualifying her to coordinate the seven Ingathering sites sponsored by the Synodical Women’s Organization of the Southeast Synod of the ELCA. 

Janice's first year at the helm of the Ingatherings was a bit challenging as she took on the duty just a month before the collections were to be held. "It was a little touch-and-go," Janice says. "But by the second year, I had figured out what I needed to do and then perfected it throughout the years."

The Ingatherings occur the weekend before Labor Day each year, and Janice has established a detailed timeline of the tasks to be completed before then. She's assisted by a team of site coordinators that oversee six of the seven collection sites, with Janice handling the metro Atlanta collection that takes place at her congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Lilburn, Georgia.

"Early in the year I contact the other site coordinators to start planning and verify that they will be able to assist," Janice says. She notes that some years coordinators are not able to continue, so it’s important to always have people in training who can step in. 

The seven collection sites are spread across Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, though Janice explains that congregations also come from Florida, South Carolina and West Virginia to deliver their quilts and kits. In her organized timeline, Janice meets in July with the trucking company to review the locations and times of the collections and arrange for the drop-offs of all the trailers. A truck trailer is placed at each location, and then the loads are consolidated into two trucks that will carry the quilts and kits — gathered from nearly 80 churches — to LWR’s warehouse in New Windsor, Md. 

Putting different gifts and skills to work for a successful Ingathering

While Janice's organizational skills keep everything running smoothly, each of the site coordinators manages the local details in their unique way. At her own site in Lilburn, Janice makes good use of technology to gather volunteers, using Signup Genius (signupgenius.com) to create a free online signup page that allows volunteers to conveniently choose a time to help at the collection. The advantage of the online signup is that the site will automatically send a reminder email to all the volunteers two days ahead of the collection. 

While many of the volunteers help with unloading the boxes as they arrive and loading them onto the truck— her recruitment motto is "Strong backs and willing hearts" —she also has work for those who can’t lift heavy boxes, such as helping with check-in and collecting the reporting forms each congregation is asked to complete and bring with their boxes.

And over the years Janice has upgraded the recordkeeping for the annual collections. When she first started as Key Leader nine years ago, all the documents were handwritten. Today she’s moved everything to spreadsheets, with some technical assistance from her son.

As Janice looks forward to retiring in 2022, she’s anxious to have more time to work on the Ingatherings. "It has become my passion," she says, noting that she’ll even be available to mentor others in establishing an Ingathering in their area if they don’t have one already.

"So many more donations can come in with an Ingathering in the area," she says. "The need is still out there." 

Is God calling you? 

There are many areas where LWR Ingatherings are not happening, and some of our Key Leaders are looking for new people to whom they can pass on their duties. Do you feel called to step up? No experience or special qualifications are necessary. Just a heart to serve and a willingness to learn. 

Key Leader Sandy Miller says, "God doesn’t call the qualified. God qualifies the called." LWR is ready to assist you with resources and ideas, and connect you with other experienced Key Leaders like those featured here.

"It's a lot of work…and it’s so worth it. Pray, then do it!" encourages LWR Key Leader Mary Afsharirad, who heads up transportation logistics for the Texas collection sites. 

To learn more about organizing an LWR Ingathering near you, contact Janel Johnson-Momanyi, LWR Quilt Kit Ministry Manager, at @email. Or contact the Key Leader of your local Ingathering if you would like to volunteer with them.