By Jessica Connor
IVA—Aileen Alexander, 90, doesn't think she deserves any accolades. Ask her about the six decades of service she has give her United Methodist Women's group at Bethel United Methodist Church, Iva, and she'll turn the conversation to the other women faster than you can blink.
But to the women of Bethel, Alexander is a model of the kind of dedicated, loving Christian servanthood to which they can only hope to aspire.
I would bend over backwards for this lady, and she will bend over backwards for anybody else, too. She s an inspiration, said Debbie Witherow, fellow UMW member who calls Alexander her extra Grandma ¦that sweet grandma that everybody always wants.
Alexander had been serving as UMW treasurer for so long she d almost forgotten her diamond anniversary, and was preparing to retire last year from that role. But when she came across some old books that showed she began as treasurer in 1954, her UMW sisters decided Alexander couldn t step down. She would complete her 60th year, and then Witherow would take the reins in 2015.
I told her she will earn a 60-year pin, and (Alexander) told me, ˜They don't have a UMW 60-year pin. We will make a 60-year pin specially designed for her, Witherow said.
A retired post office employee, Alexander has served in other capacities for Bethel UMW over the years, in addition to treasurer. She served as president at least once, and thinks she was secretary one year. But her diligent, meticulous handwritten bookkeeping has made her indispensable to her sisters, helping them stay accountable for the numerous mission projects that unit has done for the church and community over the years.
Our organization is so small, but they are so good and work for it, Alexander said.
Just a little more than a dozen women strong, the Bethel UMW have engaged in everything from backpack ministries to Bible school to the town bazaar to the new and wildly popular Bethel soup day. Sponsored by Bethel UMW, the soup day provides a free hot bowl of soup to anyone in the community on the first Wednesday of the month, fall through spring. Alexander is right there with the other women, pitching in and doing her part to make the mission a success.
But though her unit says Alexander is their glue and inspiration, Alexander thinks it s the other way around.
It s not me who should get any accolades; it s the group I have to work with. ¦ They re all so supportive, and they mean so much to me, Alexander said.
A widow for the last eight years, she doesn t think she could make it without her UMW sisters.
I don't drive and they always come after me and bring me home; anything I need to have done, they always come up with it, she said. They mean the world to me.
Even though she plans to step down as UMW treasurer after this year, and has been working hard training Witherow to take her place, Alexander hopes to say busy post-retirement. She and her late husband, Ernest, had three sons, Stephen, Thomas and David, and she is blessed with six grandchildren, six great grandchildren and another on the way. She lives in a house she has occupied since 1959 ”which happens to be right next door to the house she was born and raised in.
Not only is she Witherow s honorary grandmother, but she is also a grandmother of sorts to many in the Iva and Anderson community. She is extremely active, not only as treasurer but also as church historian, Sunday school member and member of various committees in Bethel s leadership. She is also involved with The Iva Museum and Visitors Center (REVIVA), Iva High School Reunion committee and the local annual festival, Depot Day.
But she always makes time for people, whether in her UMW unit, at her church, in her family or in her beloved community.
I can go on forever with the depth of love that she has for her family and friends, Witherow said, calling Alexander one really classy lady.
Witherow and the other women of Bethel UMW have many years to go before they can claim the length of service Alexander can. But in the meantime, she inspires her UMW sisters and shows them it doesn t matter how old you are; you can always do good work for the Lord.