Church-based Puzzle Club goes mobile

Elaine Baxter (left), Margit Moore and Carolyn Taylor, all members of the First Methodist Church of Wyandotte, share a love of puzzles.

Val Dutton

The concept was the same as that used with pennies in a convenience store: If you need a penny, take a penny. If you have an extra, leave a penny.

Except, in this case, it applied to the puzzle boxes stacked tall on a table in a corner of Fellowship Hall, the room where congregants of First United Methodist Church of Wyandotte met between services for coffee and doughnuts.

Then the pandemic hit and, like every other church and most businesses in Michigan, the church located at Oak and Biddle shut down.

But the puzzle station went mobile.

Since March, Carolyn Taylor, church member for 50 years, has delivered donated puzzles from the back of her Chevy Equinox in a circuit including about seven core members of an informal puzzle club.

“Puzzles have been a blessing, especially because we’ve been so confined,” Taylor said, who has a system of delivery. Margit Moore, an avid puzzler, receives the puzzles first. When Moore completes them, she puts a sticky note on the box with her name on it, along with other pertinent information, like “Don’t look for the missing piece ¾ it’s not there!”

Taylor does the puzzles next, then “spreads them out,” knowing her members’ preferences. One couple likes the 1,000-piece puzzles. The 300-piece puzzles go to Elaine Baxter, 90.

Baxter, a church member for more than 60 years, misses the activities of her “second home,” which she attended more than three times a week pre-pandemic. She now anticipates the times that the masked Taylor arrives on her porch, arms filled with boxes.

“Puzzles have saved my life during this pandemic,” she said.

They are also a part of her family tradition. For years, when her mother visited her Downriver home from the family farm in Pennsylvania, Baxter would set out a puzzle on a card table. While Baxter’s children were at school, her mother bent over the table, sorting edge pieces and separating colors. Then the kids came home and swiftly tapped them into place.

“They didn’t know it, but she made it easy for them,” Baxter said, who now records each puzzle she completes with a photo to share with her adult children via the family text thread.

Moore buys puzzles online, works them on her phone, tackles 3D puzzles and can work two 300-piece puzzles in a single day. However, even this puzzle whiz was overwhelmed recently. After an early-morning walk at Southland Mall last week, Moore and Taylor headed toward the parking lot.

“‘Do you want these?’” Moore remembered Taylor asking as she pulled open the back door of her Equinox. “Her back seat was a mass of puzzles! About fourteen puzzles.”  

Just like pennies raining from heaven.

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