In 2018 through our Christmas Assistance Program, SJV Social Ministries helped 107 families, including 391 children, within our parish with a special Christmas package. In addition to toys for the children and gift cards, each family received food for Christmas dinner (including a turkey or ham with all of the side dishes, bread, a dessert, and fresh fruit).
Additionally, St. Anne’s Society and St. Monica’s Society organized a Christmas book drive that enabled us to be able to give each family a book about the birth of Jesus that they could read to their children. Finally, we included a treat bag for each child filled with candy canes and Christmas goodies, a bookmark about the legend of the candy cane (emphasizing that Jesus is the reason for the season!), a story that parents can read to their children about St. Nicholas, and Holy Family Christmas tree ornaments. Before seeing each of the families, we also spent some time praying for them. The goal of our Christmas Assistance Program is to not only feed the bodies of those in need at Christmas, but to feed their souls as well. As much as we want to delight children with Christmas toys, we also want to share the joy and Good News about the birth of our Savior. Here in Social Ministries, we have worked very hard to incorporate the true meaning of Christmas in everything that we do for our families in need.
Our Christmas program is quite an undertaking, involving year-round planning and preparation as well as hundreds of volunteers. Our volunteer interviewers are asked to consider the neediest families throughout the year, and they flag them so that they aren’t forgotten when the selections are made in November. At this point in 2019, all of the families have been selected for the Christmas Assistance Program. We are now in the midst of contacting the families and scheduling appointments for them to come in and pick up their Christmas gift packages. We have been blessed already with an abundance of turkeys and hams. After Gift Giving Sunday has concluded on December 15th, SJV Social Ministries will take a small share of the gifts from the altar (SJV is 1 of 20 parishes that receives Christmas gifts from our Gift Giving Sunday) back to our offices and sort them for the families that have been scheduled to receive Christmas packages December 17-19th.
When Social Ministries first began our Christmas Assistance Program in 2012, we assisted about 40 families. Our program has now almost tripled in size, and we have worked to improve the program in every way we can. This is all thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who work so hard to make Christmas special for children in need throughout our parish every year.