Last year we sponsored 94 families. This year I numbered the people a bit differently so I'm not sure exactly how many families there were, but I know there were 147 people. And we'll have two more done before Christmas Day (they don't go to the Head Start but needed our help.)
And just like last year, we had parents cry. Heck, we cried! We had parents who were so happy they started dancing and praising God. I loved those people!!
We had a toy bin set up that also had winter coats and mitten sets for whoever needed them. Many of the toys were donated from Beulah Hill's ladies group. A lot of them were donated from The Classy Paci consignment store in Carthage. The mittens came from New2U in Taylortown and the coats were donated by someone in our church (anonymous).
The stories I have this year for Angel Tree are huge. We really didn't have any more people to sponsor this year than we did last year, but people's financial situations are totally different this year. I know there are so many people in our church right now that are having trouble making ends meet. I had countless people call me and apologize for not being able to sponsor a child. I completely understood their situation and I felt bad that they were even calling to tell me this. After all, I don't know who sponsors a child and who doesn't. I set a deadline of December 4 for all the presents to be wrapped and at the church.
On December 4, out of 147 people that were supposed to have Christmas presents, about 50 had been turned in. My sister had written blog posts asking people to help, and from that we ended up getting about 20 more kids sponsored, between her book club, friends, and in-laws. It made me really excited! Then I got phone calls from people at church saying they had coworkers who wanted to help. There went a handful more of people who would have Christmas.
Before the December 4 deadline, though, something really amazing happened. In one night at church, we had a huge bag of Wii games donated and we also had a $1,000 check given to us. (I blogged about that here.) Someone read that blog, called me, and said they wanted to donate a Wii game system to the Angel Tree. The next Sunday I received a $500 check. My sister's mother-in-law went shopping and bought a bunch of random items people had asked for (like sheets, towels, etc.) I had five people at church who took money and went shopping for me so I didn't have to do all the shopping by myself. My sister did last-minute shopping for me two days before the delivery. I had people from the church and my parents who helped me wrap at the church every night for two weeks until the delivery - sometimes until 10:30pm or later.
The Friday before the delivery I had three people meet me at the church. Another girl and myself loaded up my truck and her van and we drove a load of presents up to the Candor Head Start, where the delivery would take place. The rest of the people stayed behind at our church and loaded up our church bus. By the time we got back from Candor we found out the entire bus was full. So my truck was loaded up again. :)
The delivery was at 8am on Saturday. There were two ladies from Head Start and 5 adults, 5 kids from our church who did the unloading and sorting of presents. It wasn't long before a line started forming for people to pick up their gifts!!
Many of the parents didn't bring their children because these are the only presents their kids are getting for Christmas. I tried to take good pictures but I was so busy making sure all the presents were there and watching the parents' faces that I didn't get a ton!
I know some of the background stories of some of these families, but most just need a little extra help due to illness or being unemployed.
This is a young lady who has two small children and is a single mom. She's trying to finish school and I know she needs a lot of help but doesn't ask for much. Someone donated a stroller for her kids and you can see in one of the next pictures how much one of her daughters loved it!
This little girl could walk just as well as you or I last year. But suddenly she started having issues with her body. She can't walk well anymore (I thought she was born with leg deformities before I found out the story) and she has seizures. The family has no idea what's wrong with her. Heartbreaking, but you should have seen the smile on her face when she walked out of there with her presents!
A reindeer came to visit us! Made me wish I had worn my reindeer antlers from the Reindeer Run!
I love this picture. It's never too early to start teaching your kids about the spirit of giving. If Brianna was a little bit older (and less hyper) I would have brought her to this event.
What a sweet little girl!!
But when one of our "elves" tried to carry her present out to her car for her, she started crying! Haha! She just had to carry out the present that was bigger than she was!
I really and truly have no good way to express my thanks to everyone. I can't believe the people from outside our church who stepped up to help us. The people in our church who gave so generously with their money and time. My family who also gave very generously with money and time (including watching my kids a lot so I could be at the church!) My husband who wanted me home every night and didn't get what he wanted, but put up with it.
I still wish we could have done more. I always wish we could have done more, but my hope is that we did enough that even just one person will come to know how good God is through this ministry.
And hopefully it made all of us remember what Christmas is all about. I'd be lying if I said the presents don't matter. I took Brianna and Hunter shopping for the two kids we got off the Angel Tree and I LOVED being able to let them pick out toys for the kids. I wish with all my heart that I could see all of these kids open these presents on Christmas morning and see the look on their faces. But I also want them to know why we celebrate Christmas. Because, as Brianna will tell you, "Mary gonna have a baby. She name him Jesus. God's Son! Jesus loves [insert name: Mommy, Daddy, etc.]" Because God gave his only son for all of us, and I can't imagine giving up my child for half the lousy people in this world, and because Jesus took on our sin for us, and because I never have to worry about what is going to happen to me when I die (I'll be in heaven and hope to see YOU there!), that is why we celebrate Christmas.
So while you're drinking your hot chocolate by the fireplace Christmas morning (or coffee in my case, I'm sure) and watching your child's face light up when they get their toys from Santa Claus, please be sure to tell them where all these good things come from. Read the Christmas story. Even if you think your child is too young to understand. Tell them that Jesus really is the reason for this season, not Santa Claus, and not presents, and not food, and not decorations.
If I missed thanking anyone who was involved in the Angel Tree I am truly sorry. Please point it out to me and I'll give you your due praise, because I don't want to forget anyone!!!