TBOM celebrates 20th anniversary with tea Feb. 13

Published 1:17 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tea honors founder Eloise Thwing

Eloise Thwing at her desk in the early days of Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry. (photo submitted)

After five years of studying and researching poverty in Polk County in the late 1980s, the Church Women United, founders of the 20-year-old Thermal Belt Outreach Ministries, saw a real need.

Before they could begin addressing that need, they first had to convince their neighbors that poverty was a problem.

Average citizens in Polk County “still did not believe we had the amount of poverty reported by this research team,” according to the history of Thermal Belt Outreach Ministries. “An invitation was given to the community to join these women on field trips out into the low income areas of Polk County.”

Polk County Transportation Department buses were loaded up, and eyes were opened.

Now, after 20 years of helping in a growing, changing ministry to the disadvantaged, the men and women of Thermal Belt Outreach Ministries are inviting the community to a very different occasion.

Thermal Belt Outreach will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a Valentine High Tea to be held in honor of Outreach’s founder and executive director Eloise Thwing.

The tea will be held Sunday, Feb. 13, from 4 – 6 p.m. at Tryon Estates, and will feature five gourmet teas, coffee, punch, scones, pinwheel sandwiches, fruits, cheeses and chocolate macaroons.

A slide show on multiple screens will play back the 20-year history in pictures, and former chairman and Columbus United Methodist pastor, the Rev. Tony Sayer, will be on hand to offer a tribute to Thwing.

Tickets are on sale at area banks and at Vera’s of Landrum.

It was the honoree of this high tea, Eloise Thwing, who in 1986 began working with Church Women United to do something about area poverty. They had just learned from the National Church Women United headquarters that they were living in one of America’s top 200 counties by the measure of poverty per capita.

The national Church Women headquarters agreed to fund a study, and for five years the women made trips to Atlanta twice a year to learn how to research poverty and set up a non-profit to assist those in need.

When the time came to stop studying and do something, Eloise Thwing was fortunate to find a friend in the newly appointed pastor of Columbus United Methodist Church, Tony Sayer. With his recommendation, the church agreed to offer the new organization a Sunday School room and free utilities.

Dick Thwing paid for the installation of a telephone and on Feb. 2, 1991 Thermal Belt Outreach opened its doors for business. Eloise Thwing was chairman of the board, and within months would become executive director.

Since that time, Thermal Belt Outreach has added programs, helped to establish a dental clinic and apartment complex and moved into its own buildings.

Highlights of that history will be told in a series of articles to follow.