Community provides presents for needy

Published 9:26 am Friday, December 23, 2011

Large black garbage bags filled with Christmas presents for kids lined the hallways of Columbiana United Methodist Church last week. The presents were picked up last Saturday. The annual project was started by the late Skillet Bird. (Reporter photo/Brad Gaskins)

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Some parents can’t afford to buy Christmas presents for their kids this holiday season.

To help those parents provide presents for their kids, the members of Columbiana United Methodist Church have been working nearly year round collecting money.

The year-round efforts came to a head Dec. 17, when church members delivered the presents to the parents to give to their children.

The annual event began years ago when the late Skillet Bird, then a member at the church, started the event.

“The vision was to make sure that the children in the community who are needy have a good Christmas,” said Holli J. Argo, a member at CUMC who helps organize the annual collection drive.

While church members head the project, Argo emphasized that’s it a community-wide project throughout Shelby, Wilsonville and Columbiana.

When Byrd passed away, his Sunday school class, composed mostly of those in there 70s and 80s, kept the legacy alive by continuing the project.

This year, the project will provide gifts for about 150 kids.

Throughout the year, Argo said, church members collect money throughout the communities, with collection jars at schools and area businesses.

The money was collected and used to buy debit gift cards from First United Security Bank. The bank donated the usual debit fee on the cards. Church members then take the cards, along with the kids’ Christmas list – and clothes sizes, shoe sizes, etc. – to stores throughout the county.

Once the gifts are collected, they are placed into large black garbage backs and distributed to those who need them.

Argo said the church puts them in the bags, instead of wrapping them, so that parents can give the gifts to their children, as though the parents were the ones who purchased them.

“It’s a neat process,” Argo said.

Argo credited Luther Fowler’s Sunday school class for heading up the project.

“For years, they are the ones who have gone around town to the businesses and gotten people involved,” Argo said.

While it is a church project, and church members are heavily involved, Argo emphasized that the community has been a co-partner in the project throughout the years.

“We all work together to make sure everybody is getting the service that is needed,” she said. “It really is a community project in that way.”