Unknown person repairs, paints Sugar Grove church's Sunday School chairs
By Michelle George, The Eagle-Gazette Staff
Phillip Unger, Minister at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, left, and Janet Shonebarger, Treasurer of the church, look at the different designs on the children's chairs Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Sugar Grove. An anonymous person took the chairs down from the church attic, painted and fixed them, and left them at the church on Dec. 23 with Christmas cards. The chairs had not been used in over 10 years. Jess Lanning/Eagle-Gazette / Eagle-Gazette
SUGAR GROVE — Just call it a gift from an angel.
That’s how Phillip Unger describes what he found Dec. 23 in the interior entryway of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church — 20 Sunday School chairs, all painted and repaired, neatly placed side by side in a long, colorful row.
There was no note with the chairs and no hint as to who had left them. Instead, the anonymous benefactor had placed a Christmas card on each chair with a gift tag inside that said “To St. Matthew’s Church.” The cards were signed with the name of a former pastor or church member who had died or moved away.
“(Church pianist Sherry Smith) was standing there (in the entryway) and she just looked confused,” said Unger, minister of St. Matthew’s. “She said, ‘Did you know anything about this?’”
More than a week later, the identity of the person who repaired and painted all 20 chairs, which had been stored in the church attic for more than a decade, remains a mystery to the congregation of the Sugar Grove church. However, they’re grateful to the person they now refer to as their “angel.”
“I thought, ‘We better get some more kids in here,’” Unger joked.
Because the church only has about eight children who regularly attend Sunday school, the deteriorating chairs had been placed in storage years ago, church treasurer Janet Shonebarger said.
“We’ve had people ask, ‘Where are the Sunday School chairs?’ and we’ve told them, ‘Oh, they’re up in the attic,’” Shonebarger said.
So it was a surprise when members arrived at the church on the Sunday before Christmas Eve to find the long-forgotten chairs out of storage and looking new.
“They had been repaired and painted, and when I say painted, I mean they have Bible stories on them and rainbows and words,” Shonebarger said. “Everyone was saying, ‘Who do you think did this?’ But no one owned up to it.”
After recovering from the shock of finding the chairs, Unger said he moved them to the front of the church for the Christmas service and read each of the cards to the congregation.
Unger and Shonebarger said they have no intention of putting the chairs back in storage. Instead, they are excited for them to be used once again.
“They’ll go downstairs in the Sunday school room,” Shonebarger said.