As the difficult times in the economy continue, many families are forced to fight tooth and nail to have a good Christmas.
To help some of these struggling families, Central Community Church, located on City Pond Road, organized a charity event that spread some holiday cheer. Over 200 church members have been volunteering their time and efforts since July by donating an estimated $10,000 worth of Christmas gifts to support needy families of the community.
The REACH '08 program is in its second year of operation. More than 200 families, who received vouchers through the Department of Family and Children's Services and FaithWorks, turned out on Saturday, Dec. 13.
The program offered families with a voucher the opportunity to come to the church and receive a hot Christmas meal. Along with the meal, each person was able to pick out a winter coat and have an opportunity for a hair-cut from a professional barber.
There were also medical teams on site for medical examinations, who were checking blood and sugar levels, along with dental and vision problems.
The families also received a care package full of non-perishable food items, fruit, personal hygiene products and a Bible.
The children of the families were able to choose a gift depending on their age range. Gifts varied from board games and baby dolls to leather footballs and bicycles. Placed among a huge wall, for some kids, these were the only gift they would receive for Christmas.
"Being able to see the way the kids' faces light up while they stand choosing a gift is awesome," said Pastor Darrell Allen. "The parents were so grateful, also, and excited that their children weren't walking away empty handed."
After feeding and clothing 650 people in 2007, the church knew they had to repeat the event. "It was so successful last year, with the growing need, we felt we had to do it again," said Allen. "The concept came from memories we had as children. We were allowed to walk to the local gymnasium and receive a shoe box full of goodies."
If one act of kindness can inspire a whole church, then think of what a community can do. Asking for nothing in return, the church is content with watching the smiling faces exit the doors after their blessing.
"It may not be the Christmas everyone wants, but at least it's something," said Allen. "And if they leave here as a family happy with their hot meal and new hair-cut, then we have done our job."