Mississippi youth take Christmas spirit to evacuees
Dec. 15, 2005
|A UMNS photo courtesy of Kim Riemland
Lindsay Lynchard helps deliver Christmas boxes to hurricane evacuees.
By Woody Woodrick*
WAVELAND, Miss. (UMNS) - Brightly wrapped packages are just part of the
Christmas scene. United Methodist youth made sure some survivors of
Hurricane Katrina don't miss out on at least that part of Christmas this
About 40 youth from around the Mississippi Conference on Dec. 3
delivered nearly 200 "Christmas boxes" to hurricane victims living in
trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In
addition, the young people brought toys, games, books, clothes, food and
other items to the Gulf Coast.
"This was a way I could give back to my brothers and sisters in Christ,"
said Taylor Ivey of Meridian. "This was an opportunity to help people
who are going to have trouble this Christmas season."
The Christmas boxes included wrapping paper, scissors, tape, bows, gift
tags, Christmas cards and other items needed to decorate packages. The
items were placed in plastic boxes and delivered door to door at two
FEMA trailer parks in Waveland.
"Bishop (Hope Morgan) Ward asked me to put something together for the
youth to do on the Gulf Coast and suggested the Christmas boxes," said
the Rev. Roger Shock, associate pastor at Meridian Central United
Methodist Church and conference youth coordinator. "She had seen this
done in North Carolina following a storm up there."
Shock and Stephen Bishop, youth director at Crystal Springs United
Methodist Church, met with youth directors on the Gulf Coast to propose
the plan. District youth coordinators were asked to promote the plan.
The Senatobia District showed the strongest response by assembling some
175 Christmas boxes. Other districts provided gifts, clothes and food
for the storm victims.
"As soon as we got together and talked about it, I put out an e-mail, a
flier and started a phone tree," said the Rev. Ron Schwake of Senatobia
First United Methodist Church and district youth coordinator. "The
source of the biggest response was the little churches that wanted to
help the youth. The big churches did their part, but 10 boxes from a
little church are significant."
Schwake pointed out that all churches that participated added the
project to their Christmas plans instead of dropping something else.
Schwake said he went on the Internet and contacted a company that agreed
to provide the boxes at cost.
|A UMNS photo courtesy of Kim Riemland
Church youth from Mississippi load Christmas items onto a bus for delivery to evacuees.
John Hudson of Jefferson Street United Methodist Church in Natchez said
members of his church contributed several hundred dollars toward the
project. He talked to the local Wal-Mart and was able to buy a large
number of toys at discounted prices, which increased the church's buying
Most of the youth arrived on the coast Dec. 2 and spent two nights at
Gulfport First United Methodist Church. Teens from Senatobia left their
city at 3 a.m. Dec. 3 to take part in the event. Groups participating
included youth from Meridian Central, Gulfport First, Senatobia First,
Crystal Springs and Meridian Poplar Springs Drive United Methodist
churches and from the Greenwood District.
The first park, which contained about 100 trailers, was on a ball field
next to an elementary school. The concession area was turned into a toy
store. Hundreds of children's books, food, clothing and other items were
spread around the field's backstop.
Meanwhile, the teens delivered the Christmas boxes to the trailers. At
each home, they offered a box and told the residents of the items
available at the concession stand. If the students' knocks were
unanswered, the box was left on the doorstep.
Starting slowly at first, residents began to wander to the concession
stand and peruse the items. They seemed to appreciate the opportunity to
select new toys, clothes and books for their children's Christmas. Some
brought their children along.
While shoppers selected items at that park, a group of students took
Christmas boxes to another trailer park that contained about 50
In about two hours, virtually all of the toys were gone.
"I have so many friends from the coast who were affected by the storm,"
said Lacey Davis of Crystal Springs. "This was a way I could help them
Lee Horne of Benoit Union Church in the Delta said he wanted to get
involved when he realized how much he has compared to what hurricane
victims need. "Every kid should get presents at Christmas."
*Woodrick is editor of the Mississippi Advocate, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church's Mississippi Annual Conference.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mississippi Annual Conference
UMCOR: Hurricanes 2005