“For a lot of people, this is their Christmas,” Greg, the Executive Director of Bienvenidos Food Bank, told me as we talked about our Community Christmas Celebration. On a weekly basis, Greg and his team serve 200+ families in our neighborhood. For a lot of folks, they don’t have the resources to keep up with their bills, much less buy gifts for Christmas.
A couple years ago, “John” showed up to the party during a snowstorm, wearing only a windbreaker. For his gift, he chose a winter coat, saying, “I have never had a new coat!” He peeled off the soaking wet windbreaker, and with a beaming smile, put on his brand new coat and walked out the door, ready to face the freezing temperatures.
“Mike” has also attended the celebration. Mike is a veteran on a fixed income. Every year he is invited to spend Christmas with his niece and her family, but he never has anything to share. This particular year, “Mike” chose a box of chocolates for his gift, and brought them to his niece on Christmas. He told Greg that it made him feel so good to have something to contribute to their family gathering.
Last year, Fern, the chairperson of Bienvenidos Food Bank, showed up. She was, in Greg’s words, “blown away” by the party. Fern is Jewish, so she thought it was hilarious to get her picture taken with Santa, but not just any Santa, a black Santa! But more than anything else, she was deeply touched by the generosity and hospitality of the Highlands community.
One year, a family of four came through our doors and were immediately welcomed with hot coffee, smiles and kind words from our amazing volunteers. Their first stop was a picture with Santa. The kids then went to the craft area while their parents chose gifts for them. Snacks were plentiful, and they piled their plates with festive goodies. They watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on the big screen, got pictures at the photobooth, and eventually made their way out the door and back to their car, where they were living. Indeed, for a lot of people, the Community Christmas Celebration is their only Christmas.
As Greg and I talked, my eyes filled with tears. It is such a privilege to invite our neighbors to celebrate Christmas with us. In some small way, if just for a few hours, I hope they feel loved.
With love and appreciation,
Pastor of Families and Community Engagement
If you would still like to contribute to the community Christmas celebration, choose a tag from the tree in the lobby that lists the items to purchase. Visit HChurch online and use the link to our Amazon page to order the chosen items. Or simply bring items in and place by Sunday, Dec 9.