Across America, Somebody Cares chapters and centers have shared the joy of the Christmas season and the love of Jesus.
Our SC New England chapter held outreach events at three locations in Massachusetts: Haverhill, Lowell, and Chelsea.
Lowell: 75 volunteers served over 150 people who came out for the annual Thanksgiving Outreach, held November 26 at Community Christian Fellowship. “This was our sixth year, and every year I look forward to seeing the familiar faces that have become ‘family,’” said Lynne Saffie, the event’s coordinator from the Somebody Cares Center in Lowell. Activities included musical chairs, a children’s activity area, free haircuts, and festive prize give-aways as well as necessities such as personal and household supplies. “We always give prizes throughout the day,” Lynne explained, “and all of our guests leave with their bags overflowing.”
Haverhill: The Christmas celebrations began on December 7 as they hosted the annual “Partners for Peace” banquet for the Haverhill Community Violence Prevention Coalition. Among those in attendance were two judges, the Deputy Chief, probation court officers, and many local police officers. On December 12, SCNE held their Christmas Blessing Give-Away, serving over 260 families from Haverhill by distributing bags of personal care products, medicine, housewares, paper goods, diapers, and more.
Chelsea: The first SCNE Chelsea Citywide Christmas dinner/outreach/giveaway was held on December 19, with over 1,000 individuals attending and 200 children receiving Christmas gifts. Each person received “a delicious Christmas dinner, free prizes, product give away, and live entertainment,” said Pastor Anthony Aguilar, one of the key leaders with SCNE Chelsea. The city of Chelsea is only 2 ½ x 2 ½ Sq. miles and is one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts, located just outside of Boston. Chelsea’s crime rate (per capita) is higher than Boston. “With a warm heart, we would like to express our appreciation to Somebody Cares New England for bridging a gap to bring unity to our city,” Pastor Anthony added.” Without them, gathering the city of Chelsea would be impossible. We’re looking forward to see a transformation in our city through this ministry.”
Not far away, our Somebody Cares Baltimore chapter partnered with local churches, police, and Mercy Chefs to serve over 1000 meals over three days, beginning with the Free Lunch Friday Christmas Party on December 18. FLF serves hot meals every Friday to the people of the Middle River community, but a special holiday meal prepared by Mercy Chefs was served for Christmas. Guests also received Christmas gifts to take home to their families.
On Saturday, December 19, SCB held the “Somebody Still Cares Sandtown” event at the Lillian S. Jones Recreation Center, where police officers, chaplains, and pastors served 750 meals and dialogued with residents, including gang leaders and members. The weekend marathon of festivities concluded on Sunday, December 20, with the annual Code Blue Christmas outreach, where Somebody Cares visits a homeless shelter to serve brunch and perform a Christmas program, sing carols, and share the Gospel. They also give out Bags of Hope, filled with donated toiletries, socks, and washcloths. “You are our guests of honor today,” SC Baltimore Director Matt Stevens told the group.
While Somebody Cares reaches out on a regular basis to their community both year-round and at the holidays, events this year took on a different meaning due to the unrest that began in the spring due to the Freddie Gray riots. Events were expanded, and even more of an effort was made to promote unity between the community, the police, the church, and other community leaders. Mercy Chefs, a key Somebody Cares partner during disaster relief, came in April to serve hot meals to police officers working the riots, then connected with Matt Stevens to return for Christmas (read more here in a Baltimore Sun news article).
“We are excited about the opportunities and partnerships God is giving us. There are so many good things that happen in and around Baltimore this time of year,” Matt said, adding: “We have big things in store for 2016 and can’t wait to continue to bring hope and unity to the Baltimore region.”
Chapters in other parts of the U.S. also held Christmas outreach events. Somebody Cares st. Augustine enjoyed “a successful Coats 4 Kids collection,” said chapter director John Clifton. “We had 19 churches participate and collected over 400 coats, as well as lots of other winter clothing items, for our homeless students.” The St. Johns County School District distributed the coats the week before Christmas. SC St. Augustine also provided 75 backpacks to be filled with hygiene and winter clothing items for a homeless feeding event on Christmas day.
In Texas, our SC Houston chapter partnered with Calvary Community Church to identify needy families and distribute toys collected by the church. The church also donated blankets and throws that were given to senior citizens through SCH partner Seniority Services. BloodNFire, one of our partners with SC San Antonio, gave away groceries along with new towel sets and held a Christmas party with gifts for the children in their after school program. And in Colorado, our SC Denver facilitator, Church in the City, held their annual Christmas outreach for the homeless, which includes a time of foot-washing.
While our partners with SC Jasper-Newton Counties in East Texas participated in several holiday activities, including a Thanksgiving Outreach and a meal on December 3 to honor local law enforcement, they also found themselves coordinating some unplanned projects.
“We had a severe storm come through our area on October 31, with major flooding and two tornadoes,” said Charles Burchett, who pastors First Baptist Church of Kirbyville and coordinates SC efforts there. Unexpected holiday activities included training and equipping chainsaw and mudout crews; assessing needs and enlisting volunteers; connecting victims with government offices; and soliciting donations for the recovery process.
“We provided water purification supplies, potable water bladders, tarps, and portable outhouses for victims,” said Pastor Burchett. “We paid for an 83-year-old widow to have her septic system repaired after the flooding and are working on getting pastors and church families in her area to develop a relationship with her. We paid to have indoor plumbing and a bathroom rebuilt for a retired and disabled couple, and we are waiting on more donations so the contractor can repair the rest of their damaged home, including the roof.
“We also helped a young couple whose rented trailer house burned, providing transportation and temporary housing; and we helped a lady and her elderly, soon-to-be father-in-law with temporary housing, food, and transportation.”
Whether at Christmas or in crisis, Somebody Cares chapters daily serve their communities as the tangible expression of Christ. Thanks for your help in making this possible!