About 11 years ago Jeanne Akers drove up from Southern California looking to live closer to her Del Norte County family. Recently widowed, Jeanne decided to join a local church and settle down.
She chose the United Methodist Church in Crescent City. The first time she went, Jeanne explained recently, “everybody was so busy, I finally asked if there was anything I could help them with.” That was the beginning of a church-oriented volunteer job that some weeks threatens to occupy all her waking hours except those she spends as a member of the Sutter Coast Hospital Auxiliary, a weekly chore.
Jeanne is the very embodiment of the faithful, hard-working church volunteer. There are millions of them across America. Of all faiths and beliefs, they maintain their churches and temples as they would their homes, with loving care.
They plan and supervise cookouts for kids, keep the sanctuaries clean, see that flowers are on the altars, the microphones work and the hymnals are handy. They plan and supervise budgets, weddings, funerals and more. They run Sunday schools and nurseries. They minister to the poor and needy through outreach programs, ladies’ sewing circles, rummage sale proceeds and youth campaigns to finance their own charitable and youth group plans.
Jeanne has a strong attachment to her church and is determined to keep it neat and clean. She is the church’s “tidy-upper in chief,” by her own description. But that is only one of her church jobs. Jeanne is chairman of the board of trustees, and in charge of parish visitations, which will soon include the Stephens Ministry Program. She is vice-president of the hard-working United Methodist Women’s group (UMW). As such, she has charge of the annual bazaar and the annual tag sale. She plans the church’s decor and coordinates use of the Social Hall events, a major job in itself.
When Jeanne first came to Crescent City, she joined the Crescent City Women’s Club, Widowed Persons board of directors, Curry-Del Norte Orchestra Guild and Habitat for Humanity, where she was also on the board. But as she tells it, her interest in the church slowly began to dominate her interests in volunteering. You might meet Jeanne at church or at the hospital if you visit the Same Day Stay facility or the Urgent Care department.
Standing in the sanctuary one Sunday following services, this tiny, soft-spoken lady gestured as she pointed out how she straightens up the sanctuary each week, makes sure hymnals are in place and bibles are convenient for all and that the flowers around the room are fresh and “just right.” She is a stickler in making sure the pew pads are always clean and well-placed.
“I want the make sure the church can be proud of itself when people come to call,” she said.
This is a very busy church and it takes dozens of dedicated people to manage it for the benefit of both the members and community. But one gets the feeling, standing beside Jeanne as she surveys the room with a sharp eye, that there is a special relationship between Jeanne Akers and this beautiful and historic church.
Ann Terrill Garlick is a veteran, award-winning journalist and a native Californian. She spent nearly 23 years as one of the editors at the Orange County Register.