WELLSBURG, W.Va. — Area residents who have passed signs in front of homes that read “God is welcome here” might assume they originate from a national manufacturer of faith-based products.
But they would be wrong, as the 18-by-24-foot blue and white signs posted outside many homes, businesses and churches in the Tri-State Area can be traced to a Wellsburg woman.
“This is not a national thing. It’s from the heart of one lady,” said the Rev. Bryce Grieco, pastor of Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church, speaking of an unusual endeavor by Terry Hundagen, a member of his church.
Hundagen said she came up with the idea of producing the signs after reading about a Tennessee teen reprimanded by her teacher for saying “Bless you” during class.
Officials with Kendra Turner’s school district said she was reprimanded for creating a disturbance during a test, not making a religious reference.
Whatever the circumstances, Hundagen said reports of the incident and similar ones got her to thinking about how she could help others convey their belief in God in a nonconfrontational way.
“This isn’t a protest by any means,” said Hundagen, who said the intention is for the signs to serve as a peaceful statement of one’s faith.
Hundagen said the idea for the signs came after prayer and meditation and isn’t typical of anything she has done.
“I believe God called me to do something completely out of my comfort zone,” she said.
Hundagen had no experience in illustration or graphic design but believed the signs should be simple anyway.
She read that blue letters on a white background are easiest to see from a distance, making them well suited for front yards, and Hundagen said she strived to come up with a message with “no rhetoric, no leaning toward one church or another. Nor is it judgmental. In part, it’s voicing a humble tone, that same reliance, faith and love for the Lord our founding fathers had.”
Hundagen compared its simplicity to “In God We Trust,” the national motto that originated from “The Star-Spangled Banner” and has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864 and all U.S. currency since 1956.
But she said the signs can mean different things for each owner.
For Grieco, they are a reminder that “God’s hand is active in our lives, and we should welcome that in our community.”
He stressed they aren’t a project of Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church, though he and others at the church support it.
Grieco said the church bought 200 of the signs and offered them to members and anyone else who wanted them. But Hundagen said close to 300 more have been sold to people outside the church in the Northern Panhandle, Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as a few former Ohio Valley residents in Texas and South Carolina who saw them while visiting the area.
Hundagen said she obtained a business license for legal reasons but she makes no profit from the signs, which she orders from an Ohio company.
Each costs $6 and can be ordered from Hundagen by calling (304) 737-2779 or purchased at Dee Dee’s Cuts & Styles in Wellsburg or the Brooke Multi-Center, home of Grandma’s House and Curves, in Follansbee.
Hundagen said they may be available at other local businesses soon.
She said she’s considered offering the sign’s message in other forms, such as vinyl stick-ons for windows or vehicles, but not pursued such ideas yet.
Hundagen said it’s satisfying to see the signs in a variety of places locally and hear of them being posted in other states.
“It’s humbling and joyful,” she said, adding, “It is a good feeling. It’s encouraging.”
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])