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Needy retirees given $10,000 by S.S. class’ faithfulness

IRMO, S.C. (BP)–“Ten thousand dollars? I can’t believe it!” But it was true.

In 1996, Anne Brooks was on staff at the South Carolina Baptist Convention and watched a video about the Adopt An Annuitant program. It was the first time she’d heard about the financial assistance ministry for retired ministers and their widows in need and how most of the dollars came from individuals, Sunday School classes and churches.

At the time, $50 monthly supplements were being provided through the ministry coordinated by GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Our Sunday School class can do something,” Brooks thought.

Brooks was in a new women’s Sunday School class at Riverland Hills Baptist Church in Irmo, S.C. The following Sunday, she showed the Adopt An Annuitant video to the other members of the Lamplighter class and gave them a challenge.

“Listen, there are 10 of us in class. I know most of us are widows and some are on Social Security, but if we each gave a few dollars a month, maybe we could come up with $50 to help out a pastor’s widow.”

The class agreed and started taking up a collection on the first Sunday of each month. Some put in a dollar. A few put in more. One of the ladies gathered the loose change from her purse because that’s all she had.

That first week of April, they collected enough for Brooks to send in a check for $50. It didn’t seem like much at the time but she knew it would help with some groceries or an electric bill.

In October, several members of the Lamplighter class were part of a group who went to an Adults 55+ Conference in Ridgecrest, N.C., sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. John Ambra, GuideStone’s director of development, was one of the conference speakers and had set up a display about the Adopt An Annuitant ministry in the foyer of the Spilman Auditorium on the first night.

Brooks introduced herself to Ambra as her group arrived for the Monday evening opening session and mentioned that her Sunday School class gave to the Adopt An Annuitant program. Ambra knew about the class and looked up their giving information. What he discovered would be a big surprise for the ladies.

On Tuesday night, Ambra showed the current Adopt An Annuitant video and shared a few words about the program, inviting others in the crowd to consider a personal gift and to encourage their senior adult group or Sunday School class to get involved. Then he asked the members of the Lamplighter class to stand.

“I want to say a personal word of thanks to this group of ladies who are here tonight,” Ambra said. “For more than 10 years, they have been faithfully giving each month and, with their next gift that will arrive in just a few days, they will have given $10,000 to the Adopt An Annuitant ministry.”

“Ten thousand dollars? I can’t believe it,” Brooks thought.

Later that evening, the class met with Ambra and told him how much the Adopt An Annuitant program meant to them.

“If you had asked us 10 years ago to give $10,000, we’d have thought you were crazy,” said Dot Nodine, who teaches the Lamplighter class. “We were just a small group of ladies, but God had blessed us and we knew we could do something. Many of us were saved and baptized in these small country churches a long time ago so we know what it was like.”

“Anne is the spark plug in our class,” class member Venetta Chassereau noted. “The first Sunday of every month, Anne gets up and says, ‘It’s money week,’ and we all chip in. When a new member joins our class, they are urged to give something too.”

One of their longtime charter members, Doris LeCroy, was a pastor’s widow herself and knew what it was like to live on a modest fixed income. She made a commitment on that very first Sunday to give $5 every month. Along the way, though, some of her income ceased and she was faced with a dilemma. Would she have to stop her Adopt An Annuitant giving?

LeCroy was a longtime Atlanta Braves fan. She loved to watch baseball and it was the main reason she subscribed to cable television service. But Doris also loved God and loved people.

Nodine said, “She called up the cable company and told them to cut off her service. She took the money that she was paying to the cable company and gave it to the Adopt An Annuitant collection each month. She kept that up for the rest of her life.”

When LeCroy died, her daughter, Becky Bruce, discovered that her mother had been giving a monthly gift. Bruce also is a member at Riverland Hills.

“I was a pastor’s kid and I know what it was like growing up in a parsonage and not having a lot of extras,” Bruce said. “We never went without food but my parents were very frugal. I know it was important to Mom to help some of these other widows to make sure they were taken care of.”

Bruce continues to share a generous monthly gift in honor of her parents.

The Lamplighter class, meanwhile, has been having an impact on the rest of their church family.

“These women have been an inspiration to all of us,” associate pastor Tim Phillips said. “They’re not just teaching the Bible, they’re living it out. We’re going to follow their example and challenge our entire church to be involved in this ministry.”

The Lamplighter class continues to grow. It now has 35 active members and includes some husbands. The class goal is to fully adopt a single person this coming year or, perhaps, a couple.

“We want to get to $200 a month, maybe $265,” Brooks said. “We all have something we can give up so others can get their medicine or pay for food.”
For additional information about the Adopt An Annuitant program, visit www.GuideStone.org.

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