New Beginnings Christian Church is helping those who can’t afford gifts for their family have a memorable Christmas, despite the church’s pastor, Rev. Jerome Spencer, fighting against brain cancer.
Volunteer Jacqueline Henderson said that people have really been pulling together to help everything get completed in spite of the pastor’s illness.
“What he couldn’t do, we have somebody to do it,” Henderson said.
She and her 16-year-old daughter, Lakeisha, have been volunteering for the Season of Giving each year.
“It’s mainly about helping and giving people opportunities if they didn’t have a Christmas, or whether they are going to have one or not, they would have more of a Christmas,” said Henderson.
New Beginnings Christian Church is helping these people to have a Christmas by hosting its fourth annual Season of Giving on Saturday, December 17 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1120 Baxter Street, not only by providing gifts for those to give to others, but providing a meal and hope to them as well.
The Season of Giving began in 2008 when Pastor Jerome Spencer approached his friend Karl Ralian about a plan to teach youth how to give back. Ralian connected him with the charity CorpCare, which is now New Threads of Hope, which receives leftover merchandise from stores such as Kohl’s and Land’s End. New Threads of Hope’s donations combined with monetary donations make Season of Giving possible. “Because of the decrease in donations to New Threads of Hope, and the rise in the number of families in need, my organization, Worldwide Hunger Relief, challenged the community to donate money to buy gifts for the children, and we pledged to match donation dollar for dollar, up to $2,000,” wrote Ralian. “Almost immediately, we received two donations of $1,000 each and we took the $4,000 we had raised, and with the youth group of Pastor Jerome’s Church, we went out…and spent almost all of the money,” wrote Ralian.
These items will be used as Christmas gifts for those unable to afford them. There are many different clothes, toys, boots and household items to choose from. Those registered due to their low income status will come in on Dec. 17 and go around with a personal shopper, or volunteer, to pick gifts for their loved ones. This is available to children as well as their parents.
The volunteers will then wrap the gifts to preserve the mystery before sending them on their way.
“There’s nothing like seeing someone who didn’t know how they were going to have Christmas…and the tears just steam down their face,” said Spencer, who is undergoing treatments for his cancer. “There’s nothing like that.”
For the past two years as well as this year, Ralian is providing each family with a food basket for their Christmas meal. Last year they gave out about 300 and look to do 400 this year. There will also be food provided while the people wait to go “shopping” as well as live music.
“Here’s what I love most,” said Spencer, “Kids come up and start singing it at the same time with the musicians.”
Ralian’s help has gone a long way as this is the most difficult year for, as Spencer notes, two reasons: the economy and his illness.
“To know that hundreds of local families will not only have gifts this year for Christmas, but will also have the joy of being able to give gifts to others, and have the added benefit of a large amount of food for the holidays, and to be a part of this wonderful program, brings me inexpressible peace and joy,” wrote Ralian.