Our former summer intern, Sarah, has the perfect insight to WellsFest, happening this weekend – her dad, Jim Pollard, handles the public relations for this community-wide event. We loved getting to catch up with Sarah and hear how her dad has been impacted by this festival and how this festival impacts the metro area.
1. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE PLANNING AND EXECUTION OF WELLSFEST?
Since 2004, the year I met -- at Wells United Methodist -- the wonderful woman who became my wife.
2. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH WELLSFEST?
Through Sha, my wife. I had attended Wells UMC off and on since 2001. Sha was a long-time member and she was quite active with a number of the church ministries, including WellsFest. She coordinated the ticket booth at the children's play area. Every year, that's one of the most popular attractions at the festival. She recruited me to help sell tickets, which turned out to be a real hoot. The kids and their parents come up to the booth so excited and eager to dive into the playground, it's a blast joking around with them.
3. WHY ARE YOU INVOLVED?
WellsFest is a way Sha and I -- and when she's in town, our daughter to give back to the community. United Methodism strongly emphasizes service to others and that emphasis resonates with me. Plus, it's a joy to be part of the group at the church -- all volunteers -- who organize and conduct the events known as WellsFest. Such splendid, beautifully-motivated folks. Each WellsFest is the result of months of amazing teamwork. It's all so democratic and creative, a labor of love and great fun. A lot of work, but fun. The camaraderie and fellowship are deeply meaningful.
4. WHAT DO YOU DO FOR WELLSFEST?
The last several years, I've been on the festival publicity committee. My fulltime work (with AMR, the ambulance service) is in large part media relations and community outreach. So, it's natural that I apply my job skills to the WellsFest events. Also, about four years ago, Sha became the leader of the part of WellsFest that sells artists' donated work to raise money for each year's beneficiaries. Every year, through a competitive process, Wells UMC selects a different non-profit social service agency to receive all the proceeds of WellsFest. I chip in to solicit donations from artists, contribute to setting up for the event (which includes a buy-it-now section and a live auction) and play a modest role in conducting the event.
5. WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF THAT WORK?
WellsFest gives me a sense of fulfillment because I'm part of a team trying to make a difference in the lives of folks facing some tough challenges, namely the clients of the social service agency chosen as beneficiary each year. In 2017, for example, the beneficiary was the Methodist Children's Homes of Mississippi. They used the proceeds to renovate apartments on their campus for youngsters who, by turning 18, "age out" of eligibility for foster care. This year's beneficiary is Growing Up Knowing. Their focus is educating youngsters and their parents to work together for protecting youths from sexual abuse, sexually-transmitted infections and teen pregnancy.
6. TELL ME A PARTICULARLY MEMORABLE MOMENT IN YOUR WORK WITH WELLSFEST?
Each year during the big outdoor festival (always the last Saturday in September at the park next to Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson), at some point I pause and look around at the hundreds of people who chose to spend part of their day with us. Dozens of folks are in their lawn chairs enjoying the musical acts; some are sharing lunch; others are bidding on silent auction items donated by area businesses; some are browsing the plant sale or arts and crafts booths and, of course, there are constant squeals coming the kids' play area. It's all wholesome family fun and it's heartwarming to see everyone having a super day in the park.
7. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF WELLSFEST?
A couple of weeks after all the events have been run -- our golf tournament, Art Night and the main outdoor festival, leaders of WellsFest announce at a Sunday service the total amount raised for the beneficiary. The whole congregation whoops and celebrates. That unity in support of a good cause is like no other. WellsFest is thirty-five years old this year. Over those years, Wells United Methodist has raised $1.5 million for a wide range of worthy organizations.
8. WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T KNOW ABOUT WELLSFEST, WHAT DO YOU SAY TO BRIEF HIM OR HER?
I say WellsFest is our church's gift of love to the community. As for the outdoor festival, I say: For very little money (there's no admission charge or parking fee), the whole family can soak in a special day filled with a wide range of music, games, great food, bargain shopping in our silent auction, arts and crafts and on and on. Come be part of a loving experience devoted to helping folks in need.