An array of projects spreads holiday cheer

More than 500 gifts donated in `Extravaganza'

December 08, 2006|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,special to the sun

Caroline Krongard unscrewed the top of a tube of glitter glue and dabbed globs onto a wooden ornament.

"This is a present for people I don't know, who don't have any ornaments," the 5-year-old Glyndon resident said. "I hope the ornaments I make will be their favorite ones."

Caroline was one of more than 150 people who gathered this week at St. Thomas Church in Owings Mills to wrap presents, sort food and make decorations for charity organizations in the area.

While many churches have a program that benefits the needy during the holidays, St. Thomas, an Episcopal congregation, runs an array of projects - food drives, coat drives, adopt-a-family initiatives - that help several organizations, ranging from school libraries to shelters for homeless women.

"We started the programs as a way to galvanize the parish to get people involved in the life of the church," said Page Seville, an Owings Mills resident who chairs the program, which is in its fourth year.

Work on this year's projects - collectively referred to as the Outreach Extravaganza - was launched in September, as volunteers began collecting food and presents and recruiting church members to adopt needy families. The effort culminated this week, with participants gathering at the church campus on Tuesday night to prepare the items for delivery yesterday and today .

On Tuesday, volunteers scattered throughout the community center worked on preparing various items for the different programs. Some sorted food into grocery bags that had been decorated by children.

"The bags gave the smallest children a chance to participate," said Betsy Wilmerding, a church member who organizes the food drive effort. "And we wanted to involve the entire family in an evening of giving."

Down the hallway, Frances Wells sorted more than 150 unwrapped presents - including toys and gift cards - bound for the Paul's Place, an outreach facility that provides services to needy families in southwest Baltimore.

"I'm helping because my mom asked me to," the 12-year-old Owings Mills resident said. "But I'm also helping because at Christmas we get gifts, but we should also give gifts, and help people who are less fortunate."

Elsewhere in the community center - which formerly housed the church's school - Dudley Mason took cash offerings for about 40 books to be donated to the library at the New Song Academy, a public school in West Baltimore for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Frances Horich and Nora May were loading presents into large plastic bags, which they tied with ribbon. The presents were set for delivery to INNterim, a shelter for homeless women and their children in Owings Mills. Each of the 25 families at the shelter provided a Christmas wish list. Families from the church adopted one of the INNterim families and purchased gifts from the list.

"Participating in this program helps our kids appreciate Christmas more," said Mitch Kearney, of Owings Mills, placing a pile of presents on a table. "It gives them a different perspective."

This year, more than 500 gifts were donated, ranging from clothing and jewelry to bicycles, organizers said.

"This is a chance for pure giving," said Ann Copp, the assistant rector of the church, after taking a quick spin around the room on one of the small bicycles. "These people will never get a thank you, but they know their gifts are appreciated."

In the same room, youngsters were creating foam and wooden ornaments for the tree that was donated yesterday to INNterim. In another room, a group of teenagers assembled gift bags that were to be delivered today for teens at the Reisterstown Crisis Center.

"There are people out there in the cold that are my age that have nothing, and I think it's great to help them," said 13-year-old Will Pisano of Owings Mills.

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