Soon after Courtney McOwan died Jan 9, 2011, at the age of 103, her fellow members of First United Methodist Church at 901 Broadway learned she had given the church a bequeath that will provide ongoing funding.
Dan Griffen, chairman of the First UMC trustees, explained McOwan had given a sum of money to the Missouri United Methodist Foundation, to be invested after her death.
The interest from her investment is to be paid to the Hannibal church each January. The amount received will vary each year, Griffen noted.
The first payment was received in January of this year, he said, and it is helping fund the church’s renovation project, which began in November 2013 and is scheduled to be completed this spring.
Among the church’s improvements are a new kitchen, restrooms, and a new and relocated elevator, Griffen said. The project is being funded by a bank loan, he said, and McOwan’s bequeath will be a valuable help.
“Her (McOwan’s) legacy will continue for many, many years to come,” said Pastor Dan Jones, First UMC minister. “It’s an exciting time.”
Jones said, “it was a surprise and shock” when the congregation learned about her bequeath. “It showed her love for the church and her love for God.”
He said although McOwan “is not going to get to see it, it’s an opportunity for our church to utilize those funds in the spirit they were given.”
Jones added that “our Methodist mission is to disciple for the transformation of the world,” and the improved church will “allow us to do that.”
Jones invited the public to attend the church’s regular services, including Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday morning worship at 10:45 a.m. “Everyone is welcome,” he said.
Griffen said McOwan was very active in the church. “The church was her life. She was a choir member for many, many years and worked with the women, like serving meals.”
She also was active in her Sunday school class, he said, and at “any activity in the church, she was right there.
“Another thing she did was to call people who didn’t get there on Sunday morning. She followed up on absentees.”
McOwan had been a resident of Beth-Haven Nursing Home for a long time before her death at age 103, Griffen said. “When she went to Beth-Haven, she took her organ with her. … She always complimented the people at Beth-Haven and said how well they took care of her.”
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Loaves & Fishes
moved to Trinity
The Loaves & Fishes program that provides free meals, which is based at First UMC, has temporarily been moved during the renovation project.
The meals are now served from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays at Trinity Episcopal Church, 213 N. Fourth St. The meal program will return to First UMC in the spring.
Jones said the building project will make his church more convenient for this service, because “the new kitchen and entry will be all on one floor.”
Jones added that the project is continuing, and “there are always some unexpected challenges, but it’s going real smoothly, and we are happy to have Bleigh (Construction) working on it. … Dorothy Bleigh was a long-time member of our church.”
Griffen explained the renovation project will include re-arranging some of the church’s rooms. “We are switching places of the nursery and the secretary’s office,” he said.
Not all of McOwan’s donation will be used for building projects, Griffen added. “Some of her money is being used for our food pantry, but it is not nearly enough for the needs for that.”
The church provides food for about 300 families each month, Griffen said, and “we always need donations,” which could be food items or funds.
The church is open 9 a.m. to noon weekdays, and donations may be made during these hours. This is also when people come to receive food.
In addition to the congregation helping, he said, “we get donations from other people and from one of our merchants downtown.” The church’s food pantry has received food from a local plant and from the postal workers’ annual food collection.