By Peggy Hansen
Written For The Times 

Local Children Learn The Joy Of Giving – Brevard NC


December 19, 2016

Michelle Roth helps this child decide which gifts to select for his parents. (Courtesy photos by Bonnie Jenkins)

For many children, Christmas is all about tearing open their long-awaited presents under the tree. But for 350 youngsters, our community showed that Christmas is also about the true joy of giving to others.

St. Philip's Episcopal Church spearheaded a community effort to bring this joy to children who attend the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club, El Centro and Rise & Shine.

"This is the seventh year we have done this," said co-chair Mary Adams, "and watching the children's smiles and wide eyes when they see the gift baskets makes it all worthwhile."

But the gifts were not for the children. These children were invited to come to the event on Dec. 9 to select two gift baskets that they could give to two important adults in their lives. Imagine the look of wonder when a grandmother is presented with a lovely gift basket from the grandson that she has raised.

Co-chair Ruth Anderson says that hundreds of hours and hundreds of volunteers are required to produce Christmas Project 2016.

"We start asking for donations of gifts in the fall. Then dozens of 'elves' gather to fill gift baskets and bags. More volunteers transport them to the gym of the Boys & Girls Club where 'shepherds' help children select their two gifts," she said.

Children are excited as their shepherds help them decide which baskets are just right for the adults who love them.

Would Mom like a scarf? Book? Candle? Earrings? Would Grandpa like socks? A mug filled with candy? A flashlight?

Still more volunteers baked 120 dozen Christmas cookies for the party after the children made their choices. An appearance by Santa himself added to the excitement and fun. Gayle Worthy entertained with Christmas carols on the piano and a bevy of kitchen elves kept the goodies coming.

"This gift selection and Christmas party are a very big event for these children, and each year we're impressed with their spirit of joy and cooperation," said co-chair Nancy Harger. "They're a wonderful bunch of kids!"

"Our children have been talking about this event all week. They're so excited to be here!" said Rodrigo Vargas, co-director of El Centro. "We appreciate St. Philip's asking us to be a part of this wonderful tradition."

Christmas Project 2016 is a part of the outreach efforts of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Brevard. But members of other churches and the community-at-large join in to assure the success of the massive undertaking. Leaders organizing assistance from their churches included Debbie Felker of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Marian Wolf of First United Methodist Church and Roberta Price of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

The project coordinators express a huge "thank you" to all who toted heavy bins and supplies up from the undercroft of the church; those who "prettied up" photo frames with pictures, and mounted jewelry on cards; and to so many who donated baskets, wrappings, and money to purchase needed supplies.

And of course, an event of this scope presents a parking challenge, and the volunteers from the Sheriff's Department stepped up to do the job. Bob Jenkins and Dave Nimer took care of this huge effort with grace and professionalism.

The Rev. Bill Walker, interim rector of St. Philip's, and his wife, Laura, joined the project as shepherds to help the children select gifts.

Walker said, "Laura and I have been hearing about The Christmas Project since the day we arrived in Brevard last May. We thought it could never live up to its reputation. But it far exceeded it! This was awesome!"

"Yes, the children are joyful, but the joy spreads throughout us all!" said Adams.

Volunteers sort through donated gift items at St. Philip's as they fill 700 baskets for the children to choose from.


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