The Giving Tree at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brockton Mass.

January 4, 2013 Volunteer Stories
Since Liz Bellanger was a young girl, participating in the Giving Tree at First Evangelical Lutheran Church has been a part of her Christmas tradition. For many years, church member Pricilla Olsen managed the Giving Tree project. Pricilla passed away in 2011 and in honor of her memory, Liz has carried on the Giving Tree tradition. This year, and last year, the Giving Tree was decorated with handmade paper ornaments made by Liz and her children. Each ornament has a gift suggestion for the young families of Lutheran Social Services (now Ascentria Care Alliance) Young Parents Support Program (YPS) in Brockton.

YPS serves families who live in the community as well as at the Ruth House. Advocates help the young parents to enter school and work programs, access child care, and assure that they receive the necessary healthcare, parenting and life skills training, and counseling and resources to provide for their children.

Tasked with filling 50 Christmas stockings with gift cards and personal care items, First Evangelical Lutheran Church members got busy, and after just two weeks all of the ornaments were taken! Jim Benson, the Parish Administrator, reached out to Walgreens for donations. Liz reached out to a friend at CVS who secured personal care products, and a local dentist donated toothpaste. Pastor Mark was able to donate four $25 dollar gift cards by using the spare change that children put into the pickle jar each Sunday during the children’s sermon. Lynn Pearson helped to collect gift cards and donations after church services on Sundays. Once all of the donations were gathered, Liz and Lynn recruited the help of their four children, Carly, Johnnie, Eva and Sofia to help them stuff all of the Christmas stockings.

Karen Anfield, the program manager at the Ruth House, would like the members of First Evangelical Lutheran Church to know that the Christmas stockings were tremendously appreciated by the clients who received them. The families were delighted to be able to get a nice Christmas dinner which is always well received at this time of the year.