“The gym at St. James was transformed for one night,
A Christmas tree with ornaments lit the stage real bright.
And gift for all ages stirred up quite a delight,
The children scrambled for their toys, it was quite a sight,
For Christmas came early at St. James tonight.”
For the past 16 years, the St. James Church has helped the kids in the Holmestown community learn about sports such as basketball, volleyball and soccer. The St. James Sports Center has been the site of great sporting events for the spectators and fans of the Coastal Crew Rebels and the First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s basketball teams.
But more importantly, for the last 16 years, the church and center have provided the experience and joy of Christmas. This year was no different, as the kids from the community, Gabriel’s House and the St. James After School Program gathered Dec. 12 inside the gym for praise, a warm meal and plenty of gifts.
This year’s celebration was highlighted by the fact the one of the program’s sponsors, Jay Osteen of Osteen and Osteen Law Firm, also was celebrating his birthday.
“This is a happy time of the year,” St. James Church Pastor Marvin Kelly said. “We are celebrating our after school program, along with my personal friend Jay Osteen’s birthday. We’ve been doing this for 16 years, and God has been very good to us … and it’s a blessing to have all the children … have a blessed time and enjoy yourself.”
Alfrida Golden, education specialist for the after-school program, introduced the children, some of whom went on stage to read Scriptures, offer prayers and read poems written to celebrate Osteen’s special day.
Golden said the children have all worked hard and were deserving of the gifts and thanked the large group of families that came out to support.
“We are grateful that you all were willing to come out in the rain to support the children,” she said. “Children are so very important.
Center Director Ernie Walthour said it was a blessing that the church and its supporters have been able to offer this annual event for the children.
“When we came to St. James 16 years ago, Jay and I, when we came in 1996, people thought we would stay for about a year,” he said. “But 16 years later, we are still here and trying to do right with our programs. It’s been a lot of hard times and a lot of hard work, and hopefully, once we pass the torch to the next generation in front of us, they can carry out the work that God got us doing here.”
In the kitchen, Janice Relaford worked for hours cooking up deviled eggs, hot wings, chicken drumlegs, Swedish meatballs, potato salad and nacho dips. Relaford has worked for St. James for the past 15 years, taking care of the after-school kids as well as 16 kids from Gabriel’s House.
Relaford said she wouldn’t miss the opportunity to spread some cheer as well as some of her delicious home-cooked food.
“I love these kids with all my heart,” she said. “And I always put love in the food … that’s what makes it taste good.”
Cakes for the children were purchased and a special birthday cake for Osteen was brought to his table. Osteen then took the stage and thanked the sponsors who made the gifts possible.
“I would like to recognize Kelli Davis stays behinds the scenes a lot, but he made a generous donation this year helping us buy these gifts this year as did Jeffrey Osteen, Trevor Sikes and my brother Joel Osteen. They all helped to make this possible,” he said.
Osteen then read off the list of names prioritized by attendance and academics. One by one, the kids rushed the stage to pick out their choice of gifts. There were bikes, a flat screen TV, radio controlled helicopters, stereo systems and more, and within a few minutes, the children were showing their gifts to their families and riding their bikes across the gym.