Monday, June 14, 2021

UCMI Celebrates 50 Years

Russ Rainey introduces County Commissioner Donna Fiala at the 50-year celebration breakfast.

Russ Rainey introduces County Commissioner Donna Fiala at the 50-year celebration breakfast.

Reverend Mark Williams was ecstatic when, on a Sunday morning last month, he announced to his congregation that the United Church of Marco Island would kick off a 10-week celebration of its 50th Anniversary.

At a time when there were only 60 homes located on Marco Island, Reverend Wesley Riedell and his wife arrived on the island, in the fall of 1967, with the task of establishing a place of worship. This establishment would become the United Church of Marco Island (UCMI).

The first meeting that fall drew only six residents to Reverend Riedell’s home. However, by early 1968, there were 52 members applying for a charter. The group initially worshiped at the old Marco Island Yacht Club, and later at the Convention Center of the Marco Beach Hotel (which eventually became the Marco Island Marriott).

Women’s Fellowship enjoying the concert by New Horizons Band. Photos by Steve Stefanides

Women’s Fellowship enjoying the concert by New Horizons Band. Photos by Steve Stefanides

In 1968 the church sponsored its first church bazaar. The proceeds from that event, and from many other similar events, were dedicated to a building fund. Through the building fund, parishioners hoped to raise enough capital to realize their dream of their own house of worship.

Sue Kozlowski, modeling at last year’s fashion show.

Sue Kozlowski, modeling at last year’s fashion show.

The Mackle Brothers donated the land on Barfield as part of their vision for a fully functioning island, with parks, houses of worship, medical facilities and other infrastructure necessary to support a vibrant and cohesive community.

On Palm Sunday in 1972, 210 members came together in the first phase of what would become today’s United Church of Marco Island. Parishioners never looked back, as they continued adding additional space and growing their numbers.

The Key West Style Picnic

The Key West Style Picnic

The ever-popular Bargain Basket is another great success story for the church. Operating since 1975, the popular thrift store is the largest on the island and attributes its success to its many volunteers and the generous donations from the community. Proceeds from that operation support the church, local charities such as Habitat for Humanity, the local food pantry, Grace Place, and other organizations that help those in need.

In 1996, the church saw its 560 members move into a new sanctuary for worship. (The older building they had used is still being utilized for meeting space.)

In 2015, Dr. Mark Williams assumed the role as church pastor, following a nationwide search to replace Reverend Richard Adair, who with his wife moved to Tennessee to be closer to family.



Williams, his wife Emily and their two young children provide smiles and a natural boost to positive energy levels as they pass amongst parishioners. All of this while the sounds of laughter and merriment cascade around the church and parsonage, as you see the young couple and their children interact with those in attendance during services and at church functions.

The church began its 10-week celebration by hosting a breakfast for parishioners and inviting Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala and Marco Island City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni to address the sold out crowd.



The Women’s Fellowship Group hosted the 50-piece New Horizons Big Band Concert recently, which was also sold out, as part of the ongoing events for this season and the church’s celebration.

Last weekend the church sponsored a “Key West Style Picnic,” for parishioners on the church grounds, catered by Kretch’s Restaurant, and featuring a cookout with salads and desserts. Children with parents and grandparents had fun sliding down inflatables, trying their luck at the bean bag toss, visiting the face painting booth, and even laughing with the festive clowns who intermingled with the attendees.

One of the most anticipated events of this season, the annual Bargain Basket Fashion Show, will be held at the church on February 22 at 2 PM. Hors d’oeuvres, refreshments and desserts will be served as part of the event.

The show will highlight various volunteers from the Bargain Basket as they model some of the best treasures in jewelry and clothing, demonstrating how you can dress for success without breaking the bank. A highlight will feature the adorable “Fanny Frugal,” who will again make an appearance to demonstrate her ability to “dress on a budget,” which is always a hit with attendees. Tickets are available at the Bargain Basket or at the church office.

The celebration of the church’s 50 years will continue through March. Everyone is welcome to attend Sunday services at 8:15 AM and again at 10 AM, at the United Church of Marco Island, located at 320 North Barfield Drive.

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