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The candidate donates his gloves in church

December 16, 2007 | 10:44 pm

The Rev. Patricia Aurand of the First Congregational United Church of Christ began the Sunday service in Mason City, Iowa, today with a holiday appeal for volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels to area elderly folks.

She turned to the most famous person in the congregation this morning -- none other than Barack Obama on the fourth day of his six-day bus tour across Iowa campaigning for the Jan. 3 caucus.

"Are you available?" the minister asked. The Illinois senator laughed.

"Well, I'm on wheels all the time," he said.

"And you'll be in the state," Aurand continued.

Afterward, Obama went up to the Christmas tree at the front of the church –- known in the congregation as the "mitten tree" because of a 40-year tradition that involves worshippers throwing their mittens at its branches. It was snowing outside, and Obama had brought his.

"I used to play basketball. I'm confident in my skills," he had joked earlier to The Times' Louise Roug, covering his journey. The first throw was mediocre. But his other glove landed near the top.

A holiday slam-dunk on the trail.

--Andrew Malcolm