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Photo Ccourtesy of Peggy SnowdallPart 1 of a 3 part series
By DSC Communications

According to an ancient Jewish teaching, there is a hierarchy to charity. This hierarchy begins on its lowest level of giving unwillingly, and ascends to its highest level of giving sacrificially to help someone become more self-sufficient. This Christmas, church members will find their acts of charity somewhere along this spectrum of giving. At which level are your church members willing to give? There are a lot of choices for Christmas charity. How do you decide which Christmas outreach project your church will support? If you chose a new Christmas outreach project for your church to support, would more members support it? After all, it is part of our culture and our faith to be generous and thoughtful at Christmas, but everyone gives for different reasons.

Three church members in the Conference were interviewed about their Christmas outreach efforts. This is the first in a series of three case study articles that we hope will provide some insight into the hearts and motives of volunteers at Christmas.

Study #1 of 3 Peggy Snowdall of Velda Rose UMC (Mesa, AZ) gets multiple members on board for the United Airlines Fantasy Flight.

A community outreach project of United Airlines, called the Fantasy Flight (est. 1996), has taken off at Velda Rose because of one member, Peggy Snowdall. Her excitement for this Christmas outreach project is contagious while making connections between the needs for the event and the people at her church who have a talent or a passion that can be matched to those needs.

What brought you to this ministry? I have been involved for many years as a United Airlines retiree.

What keeps you doing this ministry? I get the satisfaction of working directly with disadvantaged children. We provide them with breakfast and give gifts, but the long term effects of the flight are endless. We may inspire a future pilot, firefighter, or police officer. To the kids, the event is magical, and anything is possible.

Photo courtesy of Peggy SnowdallWhat has been your most rewarding experience while serving in this ministry? The event is so special, every year means a lot. Sometimes the photo with Santa is the only photo the family has of that child at that particular age, but most rewarding is often the unplanned moments that just happen at this event.

One year a fellow volunteer pointed out a sullen little boy and said “I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” He was off sitting in a chair, by himself. A police officer with a dog was there. Someone pointed out the little boy to that officer so that he would sit near him. Soon, the boy became interested in the police dog, and started talking. We discovered he was missing his dad, who was in jail. The officer helped him through it. It gave the boy a new positive perspective on police officers, who took his dad away.

What has been the biggest struggle in volunteering for this ministry? Having an event at the airport is a constant struggle. Between security, TSA, the X-ray machines, and threats to safety at the airport, it’s getting more and more difficult to get through. Personally, I had a hard time with the event in 2012 after my husband passed away. I remember how much he loved the event but it’s getting easier with time.

Do you have any wisdom or advice for those wanting to take part in this ministry? Go and observe the first year. Just come and be willing to get dirty, wear work clothes, and don’t be afraid to ask, “What can I do?” Also, don’t try and be perfect. The children aren’t looking for perfection.

What are some of the ways you reflect on and/or celebrate this ministry after an outreach opportunity or event? There is a thank you luncheon with sponsors, Velda Rose, Santa, and whoever helped. One year, a thank you banner from the children was displayed at the luncheon, which was great.

Photo courtesy of Peggy SnowdallIn what ways do you share this ministry with others? Every year I ask other people I know from church to help. Cindy Von Bargen, Director of Family Life Ministries, is a professional clown. Between Cindy and two elves from Velda Rose, we have the best greeters for the children at the airport. Cindy knew of another Velda Rose member with a special talent. That connection allowed us to include a balloon artist who makes cute figures and hands them out to the children. It’s amazing how much talent we have at our church for this particular event. Currently, there are 17 members from Velda Rose who give of their time and talent to bring joy to these children.

Editor’s Note:

  • To read a first-hand account of the UA Fantasy Flight Event, click here to see Peggy Snowdall’s original article.
  • To go to the website for the UA Fantasy Flight go to http://unitedfantasyflight.com.

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