TIFTON – A strong church has many avenues of evangelism. From traditional worship on Sunday morning to children’s activities throughout the week, spreading the gospel can take place in a myriad of ways. One special way that Tifton First United Methodist Church spreads the Word is with its popular Activity Center. Leading the programs at the Activity Center is MaraDare Day.
MaraDare has served as the TFUMC Activity Center Director since 2005 and has worked hard to create, maintain, and revitalize recreation programs for church members and the community.
“Recreation activities are what bring people together,” MaraDare said, adding that the games and activities help build relationships. “The recreation activity is what they are focusing on and then the conversation comes naturally.”
“MaraDare brings a special relational aspect to the program,” said TFUMC Senior Pastor Chip Grantham, pointing out that MaraDare has strong connections to Tifton.
“She is well connected to the community,” he added, pointing out MaraDare’s involvement with and support of Backpack Buddies, Meals on Wheels and Chess Academy. “She is a team player – if there is something she can do to help, she will jump in when needed.”
A graduate of North Georgia College in Dahlonega with a degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Education with emphasis in Recreation Administration from the University of Georgia, MaraDare was working with the Gwinnett County Department of Recreation when she and her husband Cal began discussing a move back to South Georgia.
“When Cal asked what I thought about moving back, I said there needs to be some kind of handwriting on the wall,” MaraDare said, indicating that there needed to be some kind of sign. Then as Cal began working on a transfer to the US Geological Survey Office in Albany, MaraDare received a call from former TFUMC pastor Jerry Lillard asking if she was interested in assuming the duties of Director of the Activity Center.
“Then Jerry called, and I said well, I guess there it is.”
Since taking the job in 2005 MaraDare has seen a number of changes in the recreation world and has worked hard to make popular programs available.
“You have to pay attention to what is relevant,” said MaraDare. “When I came here in 2005 volleyball was popular, then it faded, now it is coming back since its being played at the high school level.”
TFUMC member Bobby Fresh is the chair of the Recreation Ministry team.
“MaraDare does a fantastic job with the ladies exercise group,” Fresh said. “The classes are well-planned and she includes a lot of adaptions for the class.
“And she does an excellent job with the kids.”
Another activity that is rapidly gaining in popularity is Pickleball. A combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis, Pickleball is played with a whiffle ball on a court with the same dimensions as a badminton court.
“We had a pickleball camp for kids last summer,” MaraDare said, adding that a regular group of pickleball players gather each Wednesday and Friday morning on the AC gym floor.
In addition to pickleball and volleyball taking place at the AC, adult basketball leagues play and there are weekly fitness classes. The Activity Center features a weight room and two racquetball courts. The facility also serves as a meeting place for youth and children’s groups.
While managing and directing the programs and activities takes a great deal of time and energy, MaraDare finds great joy in working with the participants.
“I get to work with all age groups from 4 year-olds to 94 year-olds,” she said. “I get to watch kids from pre-K to graduation and be involved in different stages of their development. I get to watch kids grow spiritually.”
“There is a sense of family here. I love the support that you get from everyone. I have witnessed a lot of how people have gathered around others to support them.”
MaraDare and Cal have two daughters, Grayson Anne, a tenth grader, and Anna Cate, who is in the fifth grade.