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Oregon man on the road for UMCOR

There's no grandiose story about how Steve Matthews came to be the road warrior that he is – traveling through the deserts, mountains and coastline of the western United States – to deliver supplies and relief kits to the United Methodist Committee on Relief Salt Lake City Depot.

He's just a retired guy from Albany, Oregon, who happened to have a truck.

"I don't want to know how much money I've spent," Matthews said. "I don't want to know how many miles I've put on my truck."

After retiring seven years ago having spent time in the Marines and as a millwright, Matthews was on his own and attending Coburg United Methodist Church outside of Eugene. Perhaps sensing Matthews' desire to find a hobby post-retirement, his pastor, now retired Rev. Gary Powell, invited him to make a trip to the Salt Lake City UMCOR Depot with a team from the church – and to bring his truck.

"He was able-bodied and retired," Powell said. "I really saw that he had a passion for this mission trip. I never imagined that it would become a hobby/avocation/ministry of his."

Matthews jokes that Powell "forced" him to make that first trip. But it was clear, both to Powell and Matthews, that he was hooked. Matthews said he was blown away by the generosity of the volunteers and the way UMCOR is structured so that donations go directly to the people in need – not program administrators.

He knew he wanted to do more, so he worked with Donna Waltman, Oregon-Idaho Conference UMCOR Depot liaison, and began volunteering to pick up UMCOR kits – be it hygiene, cleaning or school – at various locations across the Conference.

Brian Diggs, coordinator of the Salt Lake City Depot, said he and Matthews hit it off right away during his first trip and a friendship was formed. Diggs said the depot is always in need of volunteers willing to make runs to pick up supplies at various hubs throughout the west, but it was Matthews who volunteered to drive more than just the roads of Oregon and Idaho.

At first Diggs hesitantly asked Matthews if he could travel outside of Oregon, and he was more than willing. Soon Matthews was getting calls to head to Seattle, Albuquerque, Sacramento, San Diego, Phoenix and everywhere in between.

"He's been a great help to us," Diggs said of Matthews. "He's the only one doing this right now (in the western region). People have really come to depend on him."

Matthews passion for this work only seems to keep growing.

"The Methodists in every church I visit, they're just amazing," Matthews said.

It's really the churches making the kits and the volunteers who come to the UMCOR depot who deserve the credit, in his eyes.

"It's about the people," he said. "I thank them for all the work they do."

Kristen Caldwell, UMCOR

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR's "costs of doing business." This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.

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