Saint Stephens United Church of Christ announces Christmas blessings
By Tina L. Scott
Christmas is a time of love … of sharing … of giving. So let’s bless our area children this Christmas.
2020 has become a year of COVID and unpredictability. As a result, many area programs that previously helped provide families facing financial hardships with Christmas gifts for their children are unable to run their programs this year. It has been a heartbreaking and difficult decision for the leadership of those programs to make. So this year, more than many others, Christmas gifts for families facing financial hardships, will be in very short supply.
Saint Stephens United Church of Christ wants to help the families and children in our Merrill area community who will be greatly affected by this situation … at least in some small way.
Saint Stephens has created a program called: Saint Stephens Christmas Blessings – 2020 COVID Christmas Relief for the Merrill Area Community. This program is intended to provide a small gift (toy, books, or game) for each child in our community who may not otherwise receive any gifts this Christmas, because their families are facing a financial hardship or other difficult situation … a toy that will put a smile on a child’s face this Christmas. This program is more than just a Saint Stephens program, however. They are hopeful that many other caring individuals and businesses from throughout the Merrill community will step up to help make this program possible and that it will truly become a community wide effort to help provide small gifts for children in our Merrill Area Community. If you, your church, your business, or your organization would like to get involved in helping children this Christmas, please contact Tina or Rev. Lucas at Saint Stephens (715.536.7322) for more information.
Saint Stephens Christmas Blessings hopes to provide each child whose family is facing hardship this Christmas with a small gift (value totaling $20). There will be no large gifts … no bicycles or game systems or Barbie Dream Houses. No coats and hats and boots from this program. Rather, we hope to ensure that every child has something to open this Christmas morning and to let them know they are loved. And that even in the midst of COVID, we still have the hope of Christmas.
This program will not and cannot replace the wonderful and often larger scale work other organizations have done in previous years at Christmas time. It will not be large or extravagant. It is a small, kind gesture to area families and area children … because the members of Saint Stephens and many members of our community want families and children to know they are not forgotten, even though times are difficult. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is important to do something meaningful and significant … to make a difference in the lives of others, even if it is a small difference.
Families facing great financial hardship this holiday season are invited to apply to receive a gift for their child(ren). But the coordinators at Saint Stephens ask, “Please, if you can afford to purchase gifts for your child or if you know other family members will give your child gifts, do not apply. We really want this program to help those families and children who truly, truly need it. This is a big undertaking for one church to spearhead in our community, and we want to help ensure the children who need it most will receive a gift.”
Applications for the Saint Stephens Christmas Blessings 2020 program are available to pick up from the church office at Saint Stephens United Church of Christ, 903 E 2nd Street, Merrill, during normal office hours [Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m – 4:30 p.m] or Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Come to Door #1)] or you may take a form out of the Blessing Box located outside the churcnear Door #1 when the office is closed. Forms are also available for download at the church’s website: www.ststephensucc.net. Forms must be completed and returned to the church office (in-person or by mail, fax, or email) before October 30, 2020. Applications are accepted on a first come, first served basis. Every effort will be made to keep information confidential.
Due to COVID, applications for the Saint Stephens Christmas Blessings program will include a hold harmless agreement as it pertains to COVID and other communicable diseases such as colds and flu.
Program volunteers will create gift tags for each child using a numbering system to protect the child’s identity. Gift tags indicating the child’s gender, age, and interests will be placed on Christmas trees at Saint Stephens United Church of Christ, and Saint Stephens is asking church members and members of the greater Merrill Area Community to take one or more tags from the tree and purchase a toy, book, or game for the child, value totaling $20. The spending limit is in place to avoid hard feelings, they emphasize. “We want all the children to receive comparable gifts. We will not ask or provide clothing sizes on tags, as we do want the children to receive toys, books, or games. We want each child to have something they can play with, something that will bring joy to that child’s heart on Christmas Day,” program materials read.
Anyone who wants to purchase gifts for children may select a tag from the Christmas tree in the office at Saint Stephens between October 15 and November 30, 2020. (Stop in any time Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. They should purchase their gift(s) and return them to the church office in a gift bag with the gift tag attached. All gifts must be new and unwrapped. All gifts and the gift tags must be returned to Saint Stephens no later than Sunday, December 6. If you do not have the time or inclination to shop, monetary donations are welcome, and program volunteers can shop for you. Just remember, the maximum you can spend is $20 per child. So, if you have $100 you want to use to help children, take five tags and help five children. Share the love!
As the saying goes, “Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.” Saint Stephens hopes the community will join them in doing something.”