FLINT, Michigan -- The parish at Holy Redeemer Church provided 138 families and 367 children with support during Christmas by providing food boxes and individually wrapped presents on December 18.
Debbie Summers, a member of the church, coordinated with social workers in surrounding schools to find out what families and children were in need of assistance this Christmas. The planning and organization started in September of this year.
Small cards were made that listed a child, their age, and gifts they would like. The cards were hung on a Christmas tree and parishioners of the church collected the cards off the tree.
“In all the years I have been doing this, this is the first year that every single tag that was taken was returned,” Summers said. “This wouldn’t happen without all the parishioners helping.”
Volunteers prepared the food boxes in coordination with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. The church’s outreach building was prepared for the distribution several days before, and on the day of, families were directed to drive through a line where volunteers would place a food box, a turkey, and personalized gifts into the trunks of cars.
More than 225 food boxes were prepared and distributed to families. Sara Meikle, 14, volunteered for the first time this year to help distribute gifts to families.
“I think that it is really cool to see the parents' faces when they get the presents, they look super happy,” she said.
Deacon Omar Odette and his wife Victoria Arteaga also recognized a unique population in need of help. Approximately 25 Spanish-speaking families were accounted for and received Christmas gifts and food donations as well.
“Every third Sunday of the month we have a special collection for the outreach program,” Odette said. “Items are then purchased through the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.”
Arteaga and Odette work closely with the Latinx community. Arteaga was able to help with translation for families during the distribution of gifts and food at the outreach center.
“A single dad with four boys, they all got bikes. What are the chances of every family that took tags for this man were able to get bikes for each of his kids?” Summers stated. “Everybody’s idea of Christmas is different, but we make it work. We help everyone.”