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The "Anna's Advent" tree in honor and support of Anna Gordon expresses hope for a cure for Friedreich's Ataxia.

This tree highlights


This tree highlights "Backpack Blessings," which provides backpacks, school supplies and sacks of food each weekend throughout the school year.

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Festival of MinisTrees brings awareness


It Worked For Us!
January-February 2016

When Jennifer Plyburn learned that Anna, a young church member, had developed a neuromuscular condition, she wanted to bring awareness of this disorder to the community.

Plyburn, a member of South Parkersburg United Methodist Church in West Virginia, came up with the idea of decorating tabletop Christmas trees to bring attention to Anna's condition – ataxia. "It was just one of my creative visions," she said.

The vision developed into 12 small trees decorated with ornaments, brochures, pictures and mementoes. Some focused on an illness, such as diabetes, apraxia or multiple sclerosis, that challenges children in the church. Others highlighted church outreach ministries, such as the backpack ministry that provides food for children who otherwise would be hungry over the weekend.

As people walked into the fellowship hall during the Advent and Christmas seasons, many stopped to visit the "Festival of MinisTrees," says the Rev. Jim Plyburn, Jennifer Plyburn's husband.

Anna's tree was purple with purple lights and ornaments. The youth who decorated it raised $1,200 toward research about the disease. Now a high school graduate, Anna still struggles with the ataxia, as no treatment for it exists. Decorating the Christmas tree is one way the Plyburns and congregants brought awareness of the need for further research.

"We want to take our blessings and bless others with it," said Jim Plyburn. "We are excited about doing this again in 2016, and we, as a church, are in this ministry together."

AT A GLANCE South Parkersburg United Methodist Church | 1813 Rayon Drive, Parkersburg, WV 26101 | 304-428-1195 | | | Rev. Jim Plyburn | Average Attendance: 231 | West Virginia Conference