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Estero church helps families affected by economic downturn during holidays

Estero church helps families affected by economic downturn during holidays

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Estero church helps families affected by economic downturn during holidays

By David Harris | Jan. 26, 2009

ESTERO — It began with an idea to provide Thanksgiving turkeys to a few local families and grew to providing much needed assistance to more than 100 families throughout the community during the holidays. 

The Rev. Merrit Waters picks up donated Christmas gifts for children at Immokalee United Methodist Church, one of the ministries Estero United Methodist Church supported through its Christmas ministry. Photo courtesy of Estero United Methodist Church.

Members of the mission committee at Estero United Methodist Church began helping church families and families of children attending a local school who were impacted by the economic downturn. As they spoke with leaders of other missions the church supports throughout the year, they learned that many other people were also in need of help during Thanksgiving. The numbers in need grew from a few dozen to 100 families. The mission committee prayed for the 100 families who could be helped through church donations, and soon the entire congregation was involved in making it possible.

The church’s children decorated grocery bags. The congregation filled them with groceries, donated the funds to purchase turkeys and prayed for the families. The youth of the church and their families delivered groceries and turkeys throughout the community.

One father receiving the groceries said Thanksgiving would not have been possible without the food he received from the church since he was out of work and raising two children on his own. Similar stories were shared, leaving the mission committee with the lingering question, “What will they do for Christmas?”

That question was asked of the ministries and families, and the answer that came back was that they would have to do without this Christmas.

Finding that outcome unacceptable, the mission committee went back to work and put together plans to help. Due to the generosity of the Estero congregation, those plans succeeded and expanded to include children identified by three additional ministries.

The mission committee created Christmas ornaments for the church Christmas tree. Each ornament was a child’s wish list. Many members stopped by the tree, took an ornament and shopped, wrapped and returned the children’s gifts to the tree.

The mission and hospitality committees held a reception at church for many of the families, inviting them to visit the church and receive their children’s gifts. As they left, they were given groceries and a ham to make Christmas dinner for their families. The remaining families were given their children’s gifts through the ministry that gave the church their names.

The holidays for more than 200 children and their families from eight local ministries were blessed by the generosity and love of so many at the church.