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Making spirits bright

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2007

With a desire to help the less fortunate in their own community, members of the Trinity Lutheran Church organized a children's Christmas gift giveaway.

"Pastor brought the idea to us," Kim Kerns, of the Trinity Lutheran Social Ministry, said of Pastor Dennis M. Roser. "He did something similar at his previous parish and he made the suggestion to us."

For the past five years, the congregation gathered toys and donations, which were taken to an orphanage in the Zelienople area. But transportation has become an issue, and the desire to help families locally had become stronger.

"We put an advertisement in the paper for low-income families in the 15425 zip code to come in and register their children for the gifts," Kerns said. "We received 203 from the community and we are also helping with an additional 25 from the Trinity Lutheran of the North Side (Pittsburgh)."

Parents were asked to come in and fill out forms for each child, specifying age, sex and sizes. The bottom of each form contained the child's "wish list."

The forms were distributed in the congregation. Each took a list, shopping for the items.

What emerged where dozens and dozens of bags and gifts, all ready for distribution, filling each child's requests.

"Everyone in the congregation tried to buy what the child wanted," project coordinator Sally Stoots said, "and everyone shopped where they chose. Our confirmation class also took 11 names themselves to shop for."

Each family was given a specific date and time to visit the church to pick up their gifts, alleviating any confusion or crowds.

"We will wait and check to see who did not come and then contact them," Kerns said. "We want the children to have their gifts for Christmas."

The organization and orchestration of the drive took hours of work for the group of 10 from the ministry.

"Sally (Stoots) coordinated all this and she made sure of who, what, where, when and how," Kerns said. "Sally made sure that no child would go without."

The sister parish of St. John's also helped in the gift drive.

"St. John's partnered very closely with us on this," Roser said, adding that St. John's also donated several food vouchers to the local Salvation Army for the holiday season.

Members of the Social Ministry spent countless hours working on the Christmas project, and are pleased to be able to reach out to the community and to the families in Connellsville.

"We want to help in our community," Kerns said. "We have a community outreach to the aged, the distressed and the ill or anyone that needs help. This is what we are all about."

Social Ministry members also thanked the employees of Bud Murphy's, who took several entire families to purchase gifts for, and to Family Dollar for its donation of several boxes of toys for the drive.

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