AN AMAZING CHRISTMAS TALE OF HOW GOD WORKS THROUGH YOU AND ME
For the first time this year, our Christmas Giving Tree was a joint effort with Christ School. Sheri Nozik and I worked with staff and volunteers to help ensure the project’s success. God truly worked through all who participated – parishioners, children, parents, and staff. Through this additional gift giving project, 350 gifts were collected from children at both the ECC and the CBC campus. We later were able to provide for an additional 230 children who are homeless or in transition, who received two or three gifts each. Overall, we provided a total of 750 gifts.
During this process, I received a call from an anonymous donor who told me they didn’t feel right knowing that there were so many local children that would still not have a Christmas. They gave us a substantial donation to help as many children as possible, and committed to providing a computer for one child.
With this windfall, we determined it would be best to target as many homeless children as possible in Covington. With the help of Helen Stewart of Starlight Baptist and our Caritas partners, we identified 230 homeless/in transition children. As it turned out, we learned that the best way to help homeless children in Covington was to go directly to the source: School Guidance Counselors and Principals. Of course, we had to scramble to reach these kids before they got out of school for the holidays. Midway through the process, Christ School generated another 150 gifts. Amy Christopher, Mary Kay Holmes, and I negotiated with several local businesses, wearing intense budgeting hats! We were able to buy one to three items per homeless child. Two local businesses wrapped all of the gifts that they provided! Part of our team focused on practical needs like canvas bags, toiletries, socks, blankets, hats, and gloves, while the other half worked on finding educational gifts and art supplies. By Wednesday morning December 21st, Kristen Strickland appeared in the Parish Hallwith 50 pairs of pajamas. What a blessing! She had just gathered them from her friends at a Christmas party! Additionally, we were able to pick up 30 books and 12 puzzles to give to Guidance Counselors at Covington Elementaries. By noon on the day of our deadline, Sherri and I realized that we still had $500.00 left! That meant we could also help Covington High School! We were able to target 23 children and an additional 8 teenage moms. That was the best one hour of WalMart shopping we have ever had! We used dollar store gift bags for the unwrapped presents and made a note to start collecting canvas bags, gift bags, and toiletries for next Christmas, perhaps as an on-going Kids-on-a-Mission project! Ms. Helen helped us distribute the gifts and was a tremendous force! Julie Estep, head of Lower School at C.E.S., allowed us to pull Alainah Grace Reidy, Paul Stolin, and Emery Michel (KOM 4th graders) from school late on Wednesday afternoon to help us finish sorting and delivering the gifts. They were struck by the gratitude of the Covington Schools’ staff and how different these schools were from Christ. This experience has stayed with them throughout the month. (These same children and others helped the Caritas children do crafts at the Caritas Gift Giving Party on December 11th.) We are extremely proud of how they so generously helped with not only others, but with preparations for the event! They enjoyed meeting new friends and they all happily worked together in cleaning up after the party!
Throughout the process, God continued to open doors for us. The gifts multiplied like loaves and fish! As soon as we found ourselves short on gift bags, just the right number of missing bags would appear. Later, we received news of one more boy who needed a gift. Mysteriously, we discovered that we already had an extra gift that happened to be a cross. While we were at WalMart, Sherri and I bought a book for a child, knowing only the child was a deep thinker and loved to read. We learned that night that this particular child had lost his Mother to cancer a couple of months ago. He had been an honor student but since then has struggled. Providentially, we had picked out the perfect book for his exact situation!
This was not only a ministry to help homeless children; it was just as important a ministry for us and our volunteers, adults and children alike. Several volunteers working on both the Church’s Caritas giving project and this one had recently gone through difficult events in their own lives. Ministry work like this helps people through their first Christmas after such turmoil. This project has also opened many doors for future outreach projects, particularly for Kids-on-a-Mission.
We have established further contacts through Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, The Boys and Girls Club, Starlight Baptist Church, Fairhaven Children’s Home, Head Start, Covington High School, William Pitcher M.S., Pineview M.S., Covington Elementary, Lyon Elementary, and The Department of Family and Children Services. Several community leaders and Guidance Counselors would like to join with us through KOM in future efforts to do outreach work. All of us should be proud of this great collaboration between the school, the church and city institutions! We took pictures of the “gift sorting process” in the parish hall to share with everyone in hopes that many of you will see the story for yourselves and perhaps generate enthusiasm for next year!
Indeed, we wish all of you a very Happy New Year and give our many thanks to all that shared their time and their many blessings!
Mary Anne Reidy, Sheri Nozik and other angels