By Hollie Deese
When Jane Marshall joined the Sisters in Christ at First United Methodist Church in Gallatin she was looking for her place in Sumner after being gone for years.
Born and raised in Gallatin, Marshall left for a life in Birmingham, Alabama, returning twenty-eight years later after raising her children when her father became sick.
“I moved back home to help him out and just spend time with him,” Marshall says. That was in 2000, and in 2001 she joined First United. She had spent twenty-three years in her congregation back in Alabama and was not much on church hopping. But it was soon clear this was definitely the right place for her.
“It felt like home,” she says.
She got involved in choir and was soon invited to join a group called Sisters in Christ. She was wary at first, but open to try any group that met over a meal.
“I can always eat with anybody,” she jokes.
She regularly attended the meetings, and when a leadership position opened up she was asked to take on a co-chairing role. It was something she embraced wholeheartedly.
When Marshall first joined, the group consisted of just eight to ten women. Today Sisters in Christ is more than thirty strong, and their impact on the community is immense. Their first big project was bringing a Toys for Tots back to Sumner County after realizing how difficult it was to connect deserving children with toy distributions at Christmas.
“And we just hit the ground running and it just took off,” Marshall says.
They started out serving twenty families with sixty or so children, working off of their provided wish lists. The next year they began collecting food for families too.
“Everybody can always use food, or help,” she says. “Not that any of us are rich by any means. We’re all middle class working ladies, but we’re blessed. We’re blessed with jobs, or families. We’re blessed.”
The largest number of Sumner County children they were able to help in one year was close to 730. And now that there are so many more organizations helping local children at Christmas, Marshall says the Sisters have turned their attention to the seniors at Christian Towers in Gallatin.
“We found out who did not have family and we invited them to the Christmas brunch that we have every year for the Sisters, and took care of their wish lists,” she says. “And their wish list would be a blanket, because they had not had a blanket since they had been here. Stuff that we all take for granted. It could happen to any of us.”
Cooking for causes
Of course the Sisters still help any children on their radar who fell through the cracks, and raise money for a number of local charities, including Children Are People and Salvus Center, which provides health care to the working uninsured in Sumner.
“If we need money we throw a luncheon,” Marshall says. “We make our money by cooking and we’ve never been dissatisfied. We’ve never lost money and we’ve always been able to support our mission trips that go to Mexico, we’ve done the Red Cross Relay, Vacation Bible School. If there’s a need we try to fill it.”
They have also printed two cookbooks whose proceeds have also gone directly to the Salvus Center, and each month, money from regular luncheons also goes to adopt two seniors to take care of from Christian Towers.
Every extra bit Sisters for Christ raises through their cooking goes right back into the community, supporting local causes. They haven’t even joined the national club chapter of United Methodist Women’s Circle in order to keep every penny they make right here in Sumner.
“We applaud the Circle organization, they do great things,” she says. “But we wanted to be home. And we don’t only serve Gallatin, we serve all of Sumner County. We’ve had families from Portland to Hendersonville to Westmoreland, all around Sumner.”
Just recently the Sisters were hired to cater Gallatin High School’s Decades group class reunion, and the women made so much money they were able to do more good in the area than they initially thought, even paying for cataract surgery of someone who needed it through Salvus.
“Wherever we’re needed we do our best to do it,” she says.
Up next for the group is working on funding the renovation of the Green Sharp Chapel and purchase of a new keyboard. It may seem like a big task but Marshall knows with the power of women they can accomplish it.
“The girls say I always get them into stuff but I promise them candy at the end,” she jokes. “But I’ve always been blessed somehow with good friends. Better than I deserve. It’s just a group of girls that I truly, truly love and I know they love me. And you don’t have to grow up in the Methodist Church to be a sister. All you have to do is love the Lord, love to eat and love to laugh.”
For more information on the First United Methodist Church of Gallatin, visit fumcgallatin.org.