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Gaines United Methodist Church Registers Voters

Voting is the core of American democracy. The months leading up to an election are filled with advertising and social media posts about issues and candidates, which can prove overwhelming.

One Saturday, a group of women decided to be a positive light amid the election chaos.

“Sister Circle,” a women’s Bible study group at Gaines United Methodist Church in Cincinnati decided to plan a voter registration drive. “We were looking for ways to be in service in the midst of COVID,” said Jana Johnson, leader of Sister Circle.

Supported by their pastor, the Rev. Evette Watt, the group planned a registration effort on four Saturdays before the November election. At Gaines and another location in the community, volunteers registered voters and provided education.

With close to 150 years of history in the community, Gaines had an ideal opportunity to serve and introduce themselves to their neighbors. In recent years, Madisonville, the neighborhood where Gaines is located, has seen dramatic shifts in landscape and demographics. Like many neighborhoods in major cities, Madisonville has shifted from a population of majority Black and lower- to middle-income households to a more multiracial community with an increase in overall household income.

Standing beside volunteers from a community Baptist church, 19 Gaines volunteers were armed with tools to help citizens make informed decisions.

“We wanted people to see all perspectives,” said Valarie Willis, volunteer and member of Gaines. “As United Methodists, we can’t tell people who to vote for, but we have a chance to share what United Methodists stand for: racial and ethnic justice. Justice cannot prevail in ignorance.”

Those encountered shared their weariness of the division in the country and the COVID-19 pandemic. A hope for a better future was consistent among those served.

The community effort registered 30 new voters, confirmed registrations and educated many.

“Our ancestors died, fought and suffered through many inequalities, so we can have the right to vote,” said Johnson. “I believe God is doing something, and it is all going to be good.”

“The right to vote is a humanitarian right,” added Watt. “Gaines afforded the opportunity to register to vote and apply for absentee ballots to all people, which furthered The United Methodist Church’s commitment to social justice. As followers of Jesus Christ, we ministered to our community, and found life and purpose in this most important work. The Sister Circle took the gospel of Jesus Christ to the streets.”