The new Family Life Center of CFMC was abuzz with activity on a recent weekend as more than 200 volunteers sacked toys, grocery items, hosted inflatable games for children, organized pictures with Santa Claus and served a delicious meal to a line of people which circled the church.
According to the Rev. John Mullaney, pastor, Centre First Methodist Church, the seeds were already planted even before a secret donor gave $25,000 to the church and specified that these funds be used to touch lives this Christmas. Afterward, this same donor gave an additional $10,000 to the youth department at Centre First Methodist.
The event, Rev. Mullaney said, was appropriately titled Christmas Miracle Workshop and held in conjunction with the Nettie King Brown Clearinghouse which has provided for needy families since the 1990s.
“We are going to provide a warm meal for folks,” said Rev. Mullaney.
“They are going to have an opportunity to get family portraits made with Santa Claus. They will have the opportunity to hear the Christmas Story from our ‘tweens’, which are 11 and 12 year olds. Then they will be able to take their kids over to our gym and they will be able to have inflatables, bouncies, balloon animals and that stuff and while the kids are playing, their parents will have an opportunity to come down our Sunday School hall and we have rooms set up for clothing, clothing vouchers, bags of non-perishable groceries, toys for children ages 0-18 gifts for them for Christmas and then they will have the opportunity for their kids to continue to play in the gym or go home. We will take everything out to their cars, get them loaded up and ready.”
“Our goal was to provide as much as we possibly could for our community, especially those in need,” said Rev. Mullaney.
“We sent out invitations to about 150 families and we are going to try and serve those families first and then anybody beyond that that we can, we definitely will. And our goal is to get rid of every bit of what we have purchased, all the toys, all the groceries, everything. We are very excited about it.”
Rev.. Mullaney said they received the donation a little over a month ago.
“We have only had five weeks to get all of this organized, prepared and get all the volunteers on hand and get everything purchased from toys to clothes, pajamas, blankets and getting all the food items bagged in here and ready,” said Rev. Mullaney. “We had a lot of help from local businesses. Kmart and Piggly Wiggly were huge helpers in getting us what we needed. Bonita Moon at Kmart is amazing. She did just wonderful work in helping to reduce costs for us. Their workers helped us a great deal in terms of getting all the toys together. We tried our best to keep all of our purchases as local as we could because we wanted to try and impact our local economy as well.”
The donor, Rev. Mullaney said, wanted Centre First Methodist to use this money to impact children and families this Christmas.
“We decided to do this event,” said Rev. Mullaney. “We are going to help DHR with some needs as well especially in relation to children and we are also going deliver space heaters as well throughout the Christmas Season. They are going to be able to sign up for a voucher for those heaters and we are going to deliver those later.”
After receiving the $25,000 gift, Rev. Mullaney said, the church went to work immediately.
“We organized a meeting that Sunday night with 100 to 125 people showing up,” said Rev. Mullaney. “We just dreamed big dreams and said ‘God is going to do great thing though this whatever we want to do’ and these were the three things that were the biggest ideas. This workshop sort of morphed and grew, delivering heaters and then also working with DHR. Those were the things we said ‘Let’s focus on and do these three big and go from there.’ We hope we will have a little bit left to do some other things as well. We have a benevolent fund to help people with bills and things.”
“God has just been very good through all of this,” said Rev. Mullaney. “We have been amazed by the way people have made this a reality. We delegated out, the congregation has just responded. We have had wonderful folks that are Facebook friends with people in the congregation that are going to show up tonight and help. It has really gotten big. We are excited about it.”
“It just so happened the week before this gift came in, in worship I said, off the cuff, ‘I have never felt like I was more poised in any church that I have served to experience a miracle,’ and then this $25,000 showed up in the mail and it has just caught fire,” said Rev. Mullaney. “People are excited. We have had people here crying, with goose bumps all morning. Centre Fire Department gave all the toys they have been collecting all month. We doubled the number of toys we had.”
“It has really been amazing,” said Rev. Mullaney. “We have had people here all hours of the day and night, Sunday School classes canceling Christmas parties, just really buying in. They want to be a part of this, which is really just amazing. We are very grateful for the opportunity because it really feels like we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ this year at Christmas. The number of young families who have really bought in and said ‘We want our kids to come and experience this and share in this giving so they can kind of get beyond the consumerism of Christmas, making it not about us, but about other people’ has just been great!”