Holiday giving flows forth - Catholic Courier

Holiday giving flows forth

With 171 hearts on the Christmas giving tree at St. Mary of the Lake Church, Terri Orbin admitted she was a bit nervous as to whether they’d all find their ways into parishioners’ hands.

But as of Nov. 28, Orbin reported that only a few hearts remained following the second weekend of Masses after the giving tree went up.

“It was overwhelming,” Orbin, the project coordinator, said of the Watkins Glen church’s response.

Giving trees go back many years at St. Mary of the Lake. The hearts specify gifts desired by people in the community; donors then purchase and wrap the items, taping the red hearts outside the packages, and return them to be put back under the giving tree.

From there, Orbin and other volunteers deliver the gifts to designated agencies for distribution on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This year’s beneficiaries are the Seneca View Skilled Nursing Facility at Schuyler Hospital; Schuyler ARC; the Falls Home, an assisted-living facility; and the Safe House for women and children. According to Orbin, requested items can range from blankets to body lotions to crayons, coloring books and stuffed animals.

Orbin observed that the giving tree is an important tradition.

“I know that when my children were younger, that was exciting — we’d always wait for the tree to go up, and they would do the shopping (for gifts). It taught them a lesson about giving and caring, and how people are less fortunate,” she said.

Schuyler Catholic Community (St. Mary of the Lake and St. Benedict, Odessa) also recently conducted a shoe-box Christmas gift collection for children, as well as a “Good Shepherd Christmas” for which turkeys and money were donated to the local food pantry. The parish’s holiday efforts are among many social-ministry initiatives in the Southern Tier involving donations of gifts, food, money and time, as noted in recent parish bulletins received by the Courier:

Chemung County

* Our Lady of Lourdes, Elmira — Thanksgiving baskets; Operation Christmas Child, a shoe-box gift initiative for children overseas, for which 92 boxes were sent; Christmas baskets for 90 people.

* St. Mary Our Mother, Horseheads — Christmas food baskets for more than 160 families; Christmas mitten tree providing children with gifts and families with dinners.

* St. Mary, Elmira — Christmas baskets.

* St. Casimir/St. Charles, Elmira — Christmas basket giving tree, with 341 individual gifts between the two churches. A spaghetti supper and raffle raised more than $500 toward the project.

* St. Anthony/St. Patrick, Elmira — Christmas baskets.

* Ss. Peter and Paul, Elmira — Faith-formation students and their families donated Thanksgiving dinner food for seven families; the parish center hosted an “alternative Christmas bazaar” that raised $400 for the Elmira Free Community Kitchen, Samaritan Center and St. Anthony/St. Patrick food pantry. The event was sponsored by area parish social-ministry committees.

Tompkins County

* All Saints, Lansing, St. Anthony, Groton, Holy Cross, Dryden — A Work of Human Hands Sale was held at all three clustered churches. Handmade items and coffee were sold, with all proceeds going back to residents of Third World countries who produced the items; the Thanksgiving Day collection at St. Anthony went to the local food pantry along with food donations; Christmas giving tree at St. Anthony; Christmas basket program at Holy Cross.

* St. Catherine of Siena, Ithaca — Christmas giving tree, providing more than 400 gifts to local agencies and a sister parish in the Dominican Republic.

* Immaculate Conception, Ithaca — Thanksgiving food baskets; the youth group hosted Thanksgiving dinner for seniors Nov. 13; Christmas giving tree.

Steuben County

* All Saints, Corning/Painted Post — Thanksgiving baskets for Corning Community Food Pantry; Teen Angel/Project N.O.E.L., providing gifts to 100 local teens, children and families; All Saints Academy collected food and paper goods for the food pantry.

* Our Lady of the Valley, western Steuben — Thanksgiving baskets; Christmas baskets; Christmas giving tree; Altar and Rosary Society held its annual Christmas party to collect gifts and money for Steuben County Rural Ministry.

* St. Mary, Bath — Christmas giving tree.

* Holy Family, northern Steuben/southern Livingston — shoe-box Christmas gift collection for children; Christmas giving trees in churches and Holy Family School.

Tioga County

* Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick — Thanksgiving baskets; ecumenical effort to deliver Thanksgiving dinners, as well as host Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for those in need; fruit baskets made by youth-group members, to be taken to people who are homebound, in hospitals or otherwise in need; Christmas giving trees at St. Patrick, Owego, St. Margaret Mary, Apalachin, and St. John the Evangelist, Newark Valley; muffin sale by youth-group members at St. John’s to benefit the church’s Adopt-A-Family Christmas effort; the Altar and Rosary Society of St. James, Waverly, erected a Christmas tree in the Tioga Nursing Facility; Operation Christmas Child by the St. Margaret Mary youth group; Christmas cards were sent to men and women in the service by grade 7-8 religious-education students at St. Margaret Mary.

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