NOLANVILLE — When parishioners come to worship at North Side Baptist Church on Sundays, a display case in the corner is usually a topic of conversation.
With 80 percent of its 275 members military-connected, many of the church members can relate to the more than 100 coins in the case.
“Some of them come in and say ‘I know that unit,’ or ‘I served with them,’” said Dale Cowan, parishioner and director of the church’s children’s program. “There is a lot of history in this display case,” referencing the church’s motto of “Reaching the World Through Fort Hood.”
Cowan said the coin collection started in 2010 as a way for the children in the Masters Club to learn more about God and their country.
“The kids really enjoy the coins and it’s our way of showing the military and the civilian community how much we appreciate them,” he said.
A retired first sergeant, Cowan amassed a substantial coin collection of his own over the last 26 years.
“I have probably more than 250 coins in my personal collection,” he said.
As the church has grown, so has Pastor Olton Phillips’ own collection.
“Service members started giving them to me as a ‘thank you’ before they moved to another location and, before I knew it, I had to find a place to display them,” he said.
Crouching down in his office, Phillips opened the case and pulled out his two favorites: a congressional medal of honor coin and a presidential coin.
“Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, the last surviving Marine in the battle of Iwo Jima, was a guest speaker at our Veterans Day service in 2011 and he gave one to me,” Phillips said. “The presidential coin was given to me by Art George, our assistant pastor, after his grandson was killed in Iraq several years ago.”
Taking inspiration from the soldiers who come to worship, Phillips had a coin made for the church’s 20th birthday in 2009 so he, too, could say “thank you” to his members.
“They were a big hit and we will make more for our 25th birthday in July,” he said.
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