By Sue Sprang

EAST LANSING – With “God’s Work, Our Hands” (GWOH) Sunday (Sept. 13) well under our belts, we’ve had time to reflect on what we chose to do that day. Small or large, rural or urban – our synod joined congregations across the ELCA in serving others.

Glean ideas and share your own to prepare for GWOH 2016.

Glean ideas and share your own to prepare for GWOH 2016.

There are many great projects and stories across our synod – and it seems that sharing those ideas with others could inspire others to take on projects they had not considered. Yes, the next GWOH isn’t until September 2016, but it’s never too soon to get the ball rolling.

What follows are the various projects taken on by University Lutheran Church, East Lansing. Because it’s a large congregation, ULC was able to cover a lot of territory. People of all ages, talents, and mobility levels were able to participate. Joining them were members of The Islamic Center of Greater Lansing,

Kids Against Hunger: This project was previously addressed in a two-part article titled “A Bold Collaboration”, found on the “Mission in the Mitten” site. The project involved over 70 volunteers assembling 10,300 dehydrated meals for local, national, and international hunger relief.

Volunteers assembled 110 school kits

Volunteers assembled 110 school kits

Necktie Eyeglass Cases: 10 volunteers made 98 eyeglass cases for residents at a nursing home. The cases were made from neckties. (Directions at web sites such as

LWR School Kits: The congregation helped with this project by donating items for the kits. 11 volunteers packed 100 kits and were able to fill 10 more at a later date. (Information at

Trail Beautification: Eight volunteers spent 2½ hours transporting mulch and spreading it on the trails at the Fenner Nature Center, Lansing. They also cut brush from along the trails.

Hymn Sing: A group of 20 went to Independence Village, a senior living community in East Lansing, to lead a hymn sing. There was also time for fellowship and connecting with the residents.

Eyeglass cases for nursing home residents were made from neckties

Eyeglass cases for nursing home residents were made from neckties

Giving Tree Gift Tags: Four volunteers made gift tags for ULC’s Giving Tree. ULC members will choose tags from a Christmas tree to shop for the needy.

Snack Bags/Pet Food: 11 volunteers filled 30 snack bags, decorated by the kids, with drinks, fruit, granola bars, cheese crackers, and cookies. The bags went to Haven House (transitional housing for homeless families) to give to family members when they are out in the community for the day at appointments, job hunting, etc. The group also began to collect bags of pet food for Meals on Wheels clients. The kids made cards to go with the pet food and continued the collection for a few weeks following GWOH.

Outdoor Projects: The Greater Lansing Housing Coalition was the recipient of two hours of work by 10 volunteers. The group weeded the rain/vegetable garden, winterized a compost pile, trimmed trees, and made welcome and classroom signs for Head Start.

Each project had its own team leader. After GWOH Sunday, every leader turned in reports that were compiled into one document. Data included: tasks completed, amount of time worked, number of volunteers, highlights, and things that may be done differently next year (project specific/GWOH Sunday in general).

ULC’s overall highlight GWOH 2015 was working alongside their Muslim neighbors

ULC’s overall highlight GWOH 2015 was working alongside their Muslim neighbors

The number one highlight was working alongside ULC’s Islamic neighbors. It is hoped to bring the Center on board earlier in planning GWOH 2016.

Overall leader Amy Wagenknecht made some general observations that could be useful for other congregations participating in next year’s event:

  1. Have a good variety of projects for all ability levels and ages; encourage intergenerational groups.
  2. It works best when a project is put forth by a team or when a project leader is identified early on.
  3. Work hard to have volunteers sign up ahead of time so adequate food, transportation, supplies, etc., are on hand. Remind people that popular projects fill up quickly and won’t be overfilled.
  4. Encourage participants to wear their GWOH tee shirts when they participate in other non-profit events.
  5. Advance planning is critical. Decide early what you will be doing next year so the teams have the whole year to brainstorm and plan.
Volunteers worked on trails at the Fenner Nature Center.

Volunteers worked on trails at the Fenner Nature Center.

How did your congregation play out this year’s GWOH? What were your projects? What were the highlights? Who did the planning and leadership? What are you looking toward for GWOH 2016?

Don’t be shy! There is no project too large or too small for God’s people. What matters is that God’s people work side-by-side touching the lives of others.

Share your information at mittenstories@gmail com. Photos are also welcome.