By Beverly Secrist
“Look Mama! I got Play-Doh,” one young child was heard to exclaim with a big smile on her face. Whether it is Play-Doh or some other toy, it’s the smiles and excitement on the children’s faces that makes the Sidewalk Christmas Project worthwhile.
When asked about the gift bag she would receive, a young girl named Jocelyn said, “I am thankful for what I get and what they mean to me. I like coming to Sidewalk Sunday School.”
Melani remarked, “It’s really fun (Sidewalk Sunday School) and they make fun stuff. They take care of you and feed you. The gift bags mean that they really care about me and want me to have lots of fun.”
The children’s comments and stories are much the same at each site. They are all so appreciative of the gifts they receive. Hopefully in the future we’ll have more ‘in-their-own-words’ stories to share.
This year 24 United Methodist churches joined together to donate a total of 1,168 filled gift bags, 221 gift cards, numerous stuffed animals, and a lot of miscellaneous toys. The items went to 14 sites.
Churches were asked to make a commitment by mid October as to how many bags they planned to fill and/or the number of gift cards they would donate. Most of the gifts were then delivered to the United Methodist Conference Center in Phoenix on November 30. Las Vegas and Tucson each had a collection site for the churches which participate in those locations. Volunteers sorted the bags and got them ready to head out to the Sidewalk sites where they were distributed when the children gathered to hear the Christmas story.
Each spring a new slide show is put on the conference web site with pictures from the previous Christmas and instructions for the coming year. It is always hoped that more churches will be willing to help with this Conference project. Some churches fill as few as ten bags, while others fill over 150. It is up to the church to decide what they are able to do. No commitment is too small. Paraphrasing the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes many churches to make the Sidewalk Christmas Project a success. Many thanks to all who helped this year: the donors, the Christmas volunteers, and to the Sidewalk Site Directors and volunteers who do their work all year long.
If you’d like to know more about Sidewalk Sunday School contact Billie Fidlin (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director of Outreach for the Desert Southwest Conference, who began Sidewalk Sunday School in 1999. Contact Bev Secrist (email@example.com), Sidewalk Christmas Project Coordinator, to find out more about the Christmas bags and gift cards.