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Corpus Christi parishioners deliver giving tree gifts

| Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
LaRosa Boys & Girls Club director Jim Barry accepts toys for the club's youth from the Rev. Steve Kresak at Corpus Christi Parish in McKeepsort.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Corpus Christi's Ladies of Charity members Joanne Dorazio, left, and Alexis Konkol, both of White Oak, carry toys from their McKeesport church to vehicles headed for LaRosa Boys & Girls Club and McKeesport's First Steps Parenting Program.

Parishioners of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church of McKeesport shared the spirit of Christmas with LaRosa Boys & Girls Club.

Pulling names and gift ideas from a giving tree in the church hall, church-goers and guests purchased toys and clothing for club members ranging from elementary to high school age. Gifts were distributed Friday evening during the second annual Christmas Carnival sponsored by the parish's Ladies of Charity group. Kids opened presents, played games, and ate walking tacos and holiday sweets.

“We sponsor it, but the parishioners act upon it,” the group's president Laurie Gricar said of the gift collection and party.

Gricar of North Versailles Township said Corpus Christi conducts a “PB&J Ministry” at the LaRosa club, regularly delivering 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“We are here to help not only the members of this parish, but the community as a whole,” Gricar said. “It doesn't matter your faith or your race. We're all God's children, and we try to help.”

The Rev. Stephen A. Kresak said he is proud of his parish for reaching out to local children in need.

“We put out these ornaments, and we ask that parishioners choose one or two items on a child's list,” Kresak said. “Just about every gift comes back with everything on those ornaments.”

LaRosa assistant director Tim Brown said children were excited and thankful.

“For some of the kids, this is their Christmas,” Brown said. “They love it all — the candy, the gifts, the carnival.”

LaRosa director Jim Barry said it's a rewarding experience to help children, particularly those in need.

“To see the joy in their eyes, that's what this season is all about,” Barry said.

The club's youth understand that the community's generosity makes their holiday party possible, Barry explained.

“We talk to them about what a gift and blessing this is,” he said. “We teach them how to pay it forward, and that doesn't mean it has to be something material. It can be kindness. It can be an action.”

Jaedan Singleton, 12, of McKeesport said Corpus Christi's effort is much appreciated.

“They don't have to do this, and it makes me happy that they care enough to do it,” he said. “I love them all, and I feel blessed.”

Children shared their gratitude without being prompted by the club's staff — something Kresak found impressive.

“To see the kids opening their presents is a gift,” he said. “We hear their comments, and we see the awesome surprise in their eyes.”

Corpus Christi additionally distributed gifts to the McKeesport First Steps Parenting Program and other Allegheny Intermediate Unit family centers.

“We're trying to inspire more collaboration in other communities,” Kresak said. “We can provide resources, but we don't have the contacts.

Kresak urged other regional Catholic parishes and McKeesport churches of other denominations to join Corpus Christi's charitable effort. He can be reached at 412-672-0765.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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