By Katie Anderson and Julie Thomas

The God who filled the skies with light, His love never quits — Psalm 136:7 (The Message)

Visitors to Brentwood United Methodist Church (BUMC) on Tuesday mornings hear voices and laughter in the hallways as members and caregivers arrive for Sunny Day® — a ministry providing respite for family caregivers and a regular outing for loved ones in the early stages of memory loss. The program is designed to stimulate the mind, body, and spirit through activities such as music, exercise, birthday and holiday celebrations, thought for the day, pizza day, bingo, and a version of bocce ball.

Each member is paired with a volunteer buddy who provides immediate reassurance when needed and assists with any concerns. While participants are having fun with friends, family caregivers have an opportunity to run errands, go to a doctor appointment, have lunch with a friend, or take a much-needed nap. Families are assured that their loved one is in a safe place and accepted just as he or she is — receiving God’s love through the smiles and care of dedicated volunteers. Sunny Day Club® members may not be able to remember names and faces, but they know God has not forgotten them.

BUMC’s Sunny Day Club® offers a one-hour monthly Share and Care meeting for the family caregivers while their loved ones attend a Sunny Day® program. The meeting opens with a brief devotion and prayer. Attendees then share a blessing and a challenge they are currently experiencing as a caregiver. Helpful articles and books are shared and may be checked out of the resource library. Support and validation from others caring for loved ones with memory loss provides many benefits and blessings. Often, friendships and bonds are formed among caregivers.

One annual cherished event is a memorial service. Held around All Saints’ Day in November, participants who passed away the previous year are honored with a roll call of names. A bell is rung each time a name is called, and a white rose is placed in a vase. The 30-minute service includes a short homily and special music. Families of current and past participants are invited to the service.

The cost is $1 per week. Members and volunteers bring a sack lunch; beverages are provided. Participants do not have to be church members but family caregivers must fill out a registration packet before their loved one can participate.

Sunny Day Club® volunteers come from all walks of life. Many volunteers have memory loss issues in their family histories. Others like to help in the senior community. The program is volunteer-led and self-supporting.

Responses from family caregivers include:

  • This is the first time in over two-and-a-half years that I have enjoyed three hours to myself while my wife was cared for.
  • My mother lays her clothes out on the bed on Monday afternoons to make sure she is ready to go to her “happy place” – a place (Sunny Day Club®) where she is accepted just as she is.
  • Although we attend other activities throughout the week, Sunny Day® is the cheapest – but we come because it is the best!

There are three active Sunny Day Clubs® in Middle Tennessee:

  • West End UMC on Mondays
  • Brentwood UMC on Tuesdays
  • Bellevue Presbyterian on Wednesdays

Membership is open to anyone in Williamson and Davidson counties. Participants must be in the early stages of memory loss and able to take care of their own needs, such as feeding themselves. For those who are unable to do so, a caregiver must remain with them during the meeting.

For more information, contact:

If your church is interested in starting a Sunny Day Club®, contact Rev. Hughes.

Katie Anderson and Julie Thomas are BUMC members and volunteers with the church’s Sunny Day Club®.