Dear Bakery Friends,
On Saturday evening, Trinity West Pittston's grounds turned into a Christmas tree lot as we invited our neighbors affected by the September flooding to choose a Christmas tree or wreath to brighten their holiday.
About 60 families came by to choose from an assortment of trees and wreaths delivered fresh that day from a nearby tree lot. With the sounds of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" filling the air and ample supplies of hot chocolate and cookies baked by parishioners from Trinity and the Episcopal Church Women's group from Prince of Peace in Dallas, we tried to make our guests feel welcome as they chose a tree.
For some, getting a tree freed up money to use on other things. For others, it replaced an artificial tree that was lost to the flooding. Many of those who stopped by told tales of losing not only their trees but all their Christmas decorations which were stored in basements or garages that took on water during the flood.
One woman shared how she thought her tree and ornaments were okay because they were stored on high shelves in the garage and well above the flood water, but when she went out to get her decorations she discovered that the flood water had toppled the plastic storage tubs containing the decorations from the shelves into the water. Someone who probably thought they were being helpful hosed off the boxes and put them back on the shelves but didn't open them or clean what was inside, and all her decorations were ruined. "I was so upset. We had so many nice things and they were all caked with mud and mold," she said. This woman was able to choose from some Christmas ornaments and lights donated for those affected by the flood and took home not only a tree but some things to decorate it with. "It might be a Charlie Brown tree without enough ornaments, " she said, "but it will still feel like Christmas."
We were initially surprised by how many residents chose wreaths instead of trees, and saddened to learn that the reason was that many of them were living in circumstances that just don't leave room for a Christmas tree. Some are living in cramped trailers, and many are still living in one room in a hotel or with relatives or friends. One woman said she couldn't take a tree because her house doesn't have any floors -- the entire first level had to be stripped to the support beams to eradicate mold. "I don't have any place to stand a tree, but I can still remember Christmas when I look at my front door," this woman said.
Our neighbors also had the opportunity to browse a selection of new and gently used clothing and salon beauty products provided by Covers of Love, a local non-profit that heard about our efforts and asked to join us, as well as some of the clothing and bedding donated by St. John's Hamlin during our furniture distribution. We also had more than 80 cases of water and a dozen cases of bleach sent to us by Churches of Christ Disaster Relief and a selection of Christmas ornaments, toys and new household items donated by Trinity parishioners, as well as some of the gift cards collected at the Diocesan Convention and sent to us afterwards by other churches. Our neighbors were pleasantly surprised and very grateful to receive so much help when they thought they were only getting a tree.
Over and over, we were thanked for still being there when others have moved on. But the thanks didn't warm our hearts as much as knowing that about sixty families will have a merrier Christmas right when they most need to take a moment to step away from stress and loss and feel the spirit of Christmas around them. "If you weren't giving these away, I wouldn't have stopped working on the house tonight to run out for a tree. I don't know if I would have ever stopped," one man accompanied by two grade school aged children told us. "We're going to decorate this and have cookies and milk under the tree before bed. Tonight, we can just forget about the flood and think about Christmas."
Our thanks to Ciampi's Greenhouses for assisting us with a good price on the trees and for donating the wreaths; to Father Earl Trygar, his wife Helen and the parishioners of St. Mark's Moscow for the generous cash contributions towards the purchase of trees; to the ECW at Prince of Peace for the beautiful trays of homemade cookies, as well as the candy canes and small gifts we were able to hand out to the children who visited; to the Churches of Christ for the water and bleach; and to all of you who contributed gift cards that we were able to share. Our neighbors are grateful for the help you are all providing, and we are grateful for your support as we continue to try to ease their burdens. Our parish Community Resiliency Team will meet soon to discuss the projects we've just completed, assess the needs we've learned about and plan new ways to help. We'll keep you posted -- please keep our neighbors and our efforts in your prayers.
Trinity West Pittston
P.S. We were also fortunate enough to have a video journalist from local television stations FOX56 and WBRE stop by during the evening to film a report that ran on the 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts. The text of that report can be found below. The attitude expressed by Ms. Edwards is very typical of what we hear from our neighbors: they are doing without so much but are very grateful for what they do have and for any help they receive.