Christmas came early for children from the St. James Community Church after-school program, Gabriel House and the Holmestown community. On Wednesday evening at the St. James Sports Center, families were treated to a holiday meal and children received gifts.Center Director Ernie Walthour said the tradition started in 1996, but it has gave out over 100 gifts out tonight to children who would otherwise not receive one."
"It’s been a real tight situation for a lot of families this year," said Marvin Kelly, pastor of St. James Community Church. "And the kids really look forward to this so we made additional sacrifices to make sure we could make it happen this year."
Kelly, who has been with the church for 27 years, said he was thankful and blessed to have the support of Walthour, the Osteen and Osteen Law Firm, United Way, Walmart and his church members, many who donated their own money to buy gifts.
The children ranged from 5-12 years old to a few young adults.
Walthour said he was thankful to Janice Rutherford, who spent countless hours preparing chicken, salads, meatballs, deviled eggs and a variety of finger foods and fruits, which lined the buffet table and fed the kids and families.
Alfreda Golden, Sara Ackerson and Sabrina Mims were recognized for their contributions to the St. James after school program receiving gifts from Walthour during the ceremony.
The St. James ABC Choir and Omari Walthour sang Christmas songs and Ackerson gave the invocation before the guest plated up their meals.
Afterwards Jay Osteen read the children’s name off and one by one they went up to pick their gifts. Some picked Barbie dolls others strolled off with a new bicycle or CD player.
The kids played around the gym floor while the families conversed and shared holiday cake.
"I hope the economy picks back up," Walthour said offering a few of his Christmas wishes. "I hope these kids continue doing well academically, I hope we can have more jobs so we can keep putting these events on throughout the year.
"We hope this continues on and on," Kelly added.