This legacy story brought to us by Ja net' Crouse
Vice President of Pacific Northwest United Methodist Women
I am a UMW member because of Eleanor Swoboda. I met her through my daughter who lived in Wenatchee, when I still lived in Delaware. Eleanor approved Jennifer’s choice for a husband, made the flower girl dress for her wedding in 1998, and loaned me her kitchen so I could make the wedding cake. Each time I visited Jennifer I got together with Eleanor. She and I shared a southern Idaho heritage.
Becoming a UMW member was a stepwise process and each step involved Eleanor. First, she selected my new house. In summer 2000 I was temporarily in the Wenatchee valley while looking for a home in Spokane or Coeur d’Alene. Eleanor invited me to tea and asked, “Why aren’t you buying a house here?” Several Sundays later she sent me to an open house next door to her. The house met our requirements perfectly plus: who could say no to wonderful neighbors? In October when my husband and I arrived in our U-haul, she had filled our new home with welcoming bouquets. Eleanor became a special friend.
Second, Eleanor invited me to UMW. On Election Day, November 7, 2000, she took me to my first UMW meeting at Trinity UMC. I was still unpacking all the boxes. I had been active in public education through PTA and School Board in Delaware but never UMW. On the way home she asked me if I would like to be president! I said “no” for another three years, although I agreed to be vice president after two. Eleanor’s enthusiasm for UMW was contagious.
Third, Eleanor had a passion for mission. She encouraged UMW to assemble kits for UMCOR and contributed to our annual bazaar to raise money for missions. She prompted local UMW members to attend district events and Mission u (then Cooperative School of Christian Mission). Traveling with Eleanor expanded my geographical knowledge of my new state and ultimately my involvement. Eventually, I became a district and then a conference officer. I had fun promoting leadership development and teaching classes for Mission u.
Eleanor believed that each UMW member should personally invite a new person to UMW and drive them for a year. Then the new member would reach out to another woman. Eleanor’s invitation was personal and effective for me.
This is Libby’s tenth year serving as an officer in United Methodist Women, first with Seven Rivers District in Nominations, then Social Action, and now in Nominations for Pacific Northwest Conference. She made time to speak with me while she was on the train to Edmonds, on her way to participate in her ninth Interfaith Advocacy Day in support of justice initiatives. Libby works full time, but takes time off when necessary “to give back. I want to know I am doing everything I can. I would want someone to do that for me if I needed help. Sometimes people are just living in the world. Stop to help, or to get help. I think we’re here to help each other, not hurt each other. I can advocate and share with people what I’m learning. What else am I going to do? Yeah I have a full time job, but this is what I’m passionate about.”
Originally from California, taken from her biological family at the age of four and adopted into an abusive home, she always felt God was with her, watching over her at all times. She cares deeply about racial justice, and worries about educational opportunities for immigrants. Libby feels empowered by the truth, as a part of United Methodist Women, after attending two Assemblies at Anaheim and Saint Louis, learning about issues all over the world, “the truth of what’s going on out there, not just what the news media wants us to know or thinks we can handle.”
In 1996, Diane Conrad was speaking with her about the church family at Trinity United Methodist Church in East Wenatchee, and Libby thought, “I don’t have that in my life.” She asked Diane, “Can the kids and I come?” Shortly after that Eleanor Swaboda started having evening dinner meetings, where Libby met Ron and Lois Hines, and where she got started, before joining the District team.
She has been privileged to witness the Dream Act go into effect, protecting children brought here with their parents. She’s led a class on the Charter for Racial Justice, helped with Mission Madness events, made kits for UMCOR, and served however she could since joining. “It was a great experience getting together with women, and we’re going to accomplish something and really make a difference. That’s my favorite part: all the different women I get to meet, and we encourage each other. 150 years? And we weren't supposed to be doing that, the women said… We’re doing it anyway.”