By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Spring was in the air as First United Methodist Church members welcomed local families to its first Trunk or TrEaster event April 9, featuring candy stations and other family-friendly activities.
Nick Blevins, director of children’s ministries, said they didn’t know how many people to expect, but they were pleased with the strong turnout.
“Our goal with the event was to make it more accessible,” he said. “The treats that are being handed out are not only edible but non-edible, for children with food allergies, and more accessible to children with mobility issues.”
Blevins said they relied on social media and word-of-mouth to publicize the event.
“Everything is outdoors, and everything is in the loop,” he said. “We have the Peeps bunny, and crafts and games, and we have 18 trunks.”
Blevins said they anticipated 300 guests, but many more turned out.
“I am just grateful that we can be part of their Easter memories this year, and that we are able to do this for them,” he said.
Local author and the pastor’s wife, Glenys Nellis, was reading Easter-themed stories in the gazebo.
“I’m just reading secular stories today,” she said. “Our guests come from everywhere and different traditions, so we just want people to feel welcome and not like we are indoctrinating them.”
Nellist said that their Trunk or Treat event was so popular during Halloween, they decided to try it for Easter with Trunk or TrEaster play on words.
“This is our first Trunk or TrEaster, but I feel it won’t be our last,” she said. “Look at all the people – it’s so wonderful.”
Nellist, who said about 40 parish volunteers were running the event, said she was filled with joy as she looked around at the families enjoying the event.
“I want this to be a church outside the four walls,” she said. “I think sometimes churches can get too comfortable inside their own building, and we want to be in the community, we want to meet people, we want people to know it’s a welcoming place for anyone, of any faith or none, any gender or none – we just want to be an open, welcoming place.”
Church communications director Kirsten Karoub said the turnout is what they had hoped it would be.
“We wanted to reach out, bring the community in, share our joy and our friendship,” she said.
Parishioner Christie Brewster said she considers the large turnout a “tremendous success.”
“It’s just really great to see so many smiling, happy faces and kids and families just coming and enjoying time together,” she said. “It’s that whole thing, where we’ve had all winter that nobody’s been doing bubbles or sidewalk chalk, so it’s spring, so it’s fresh and new.”
Karoub said during their Halloween Trunk or Treat, they had 500 guests even though it was raining.
“We were kind of betting on that, and if the weather was good, maybe a little more, but we didn’t expect wrapped around the corner,” she said with a smile. “But it’s a new twist on an egg hunt, so everybody gets treats, there is not that scramble and mad dash, and sad faces if they can’t find an egg. Everyone gets something, and it’s just ‘come have fun.’”
Brewster said that with church members decorating the back of their vehicles, it allowed them to ramp up their creativity and participation level.
“There’s all sorts of Easter decorations, including our stuffed Peep walking around, and the Easter bunny,” she said. “Lots of smiles, lots of laughs, lots of ‘oh, how cute you are.’”
Karoub said the parishioners love events like this.
“They couldn’t wait to get signed up and get their cars decorated, and even before the people came, they were all walking to each other’s cars to see what everybody had done,” she said. “They love talking to the kids and talking to everybody and love seeing the faces.”
The Rev. David Nellist said he was overjoyed by the turnout.
“My bucket is so filled up today, seeing all these people come out from the community, and seeing the looks on their kids’ faces when we give them candy,” he said.
Nellist said he would like to see it become an annual event.
“I would absolutely love to keep doing events for the community and get them out of their homes after COVID,” he said. “It’s an amazing event, and we have three times as many people as we thought we would have.”
Nellist said events like this are referred to as bridge events.
“It’s just letting people in the community know that we are a faith community, and should they have the need for someone to talk to, or a church to come and worship, to have someone baptized or married, or even a memorial service, we are here in the community to help them,” he said.
Nellist said the event is fun for the church members, too.
“They decorate their cars, dress up and just get out after COVID and have some fun and enjoy themselves,” he said.