Her heart heavy over the recent loss of a husband who served so many in countless capacities, Dolores "Dee" Smith has found at least 48 ways to make a sweet difference during Mission:1.
"It is only four dozen cookies, but they went to help feed homeless people," said Smith, whose husband, the Rev. Robert E. ("Bob") Smith died Oct. 5 after a brief illness.
"It's a small thing, but I can do this now, even though I'm still raw with my own tender feelings about what's happened to my own cookie-eater."
Smith's reference was to her husband and his palette for the chocolate-dotted delights – and to lending her baking talent to benefit local homeless at an ecumenical gathering Nov. 3.
"Baking the cookies warmed my home and my heart," she said. "I pray that every soul who ate the cookies will know God's love."
When her great-granddaughter announced she was selling cookie dough for a school fund-raiser, Smith didn't think twice. Pilgrim Congregational UCC, Smith's new church home in Wichita, Kan., needed eight dozen home-baked cookies for the Nov. 3 event. Smith seized her Mission:1 moment, volunteering to bake half of them.
"This was for people who otherwise would not get something fresh," said Smith, adding with a gentle laugh, "actually, they were 'gourmet,' according to the fund-raising literature from my great-granddaughter's school."
The event involved several Wichita churches, said Smith, and drew about 40 homeless men to the local Methodist church. "That's where this particular event is always held, but various churches take turns helping. Our turn came around this month."
Smith said she was excited to be a part of the "global feel" of Mission:1. "That, to me, is the important thing. Working together we can accomplish so much. And it's great to see those parts pulling together."
Smith said her husband's ministerial career comprised more than 60 years as a pastor in Southern Baptist and UCC settings. "His father and grandfather were Southern Baptists," she said, "but Bob saw the light and graduated from UCC-related Eden Theological Seminary about 32 years ago."
A missionary in Brazil with the Southern Baptists in the 1960s, Smith taught seminary in Brazil and Kansas City, said his widow. He was a bible scholar, read many languages and provided an influential presence among the Central Association of the UCC Kansas Oklahoma Conference, she added.
The Smiths, married 33 years, had joined Pilgrim this past spring after Bob's retirement following six years as pastor of Midland Community UCC in Sterling, Kan. – a 70-mile, one-way commute from the Smiths' home in Wichita.
An avid fitness enthusiast, Bob Smith turned 80 last February. He became ill Oct. 1, was hospitalized two days later, and died Oct. 5 of an infection in his bloodstream, said his widow.
"The world has lost a great mind," she said. "I miss him."