The song says Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but that’s not true for everyone. While life at home for the boys and girls on the CCHO campus was often terrifying, many of them are still homesick, especially this time of year. Sadly, these kids didn’t wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning.
But because of kind and loyal supporters, they did wake up to an astonishing example of generosity and love. Contributors to our annual Christmas Wish List program donated more than 400 gifts to 34 children on our campus. Wow! Even more incredibly, the Wish List donors sent in gifts to 97 kiddos in our Encompass Christian Counseling ministry, bringing the total number of gifts donated this year to nearly 1100!
Each year, we are blown away by this showing of love and support for the children and families we are blessed to serve. As Christians, we know Christmas isn’t about the gifts, but our Wish List program is a meaningful and memorable expression of God’s extravagant love for us, passed on to children who may never have experienced it before.
I’ve been involved in helping CCHO for over 5 years. I was initially introduced through a friend who had fostered a couple boys through CCHO, and I wanted to help in some small way. I have four of my own children who I wanted to include in the process, so we started shopping for a child or two every Christmas. I would have each of my kids give up at least one of their Christmas gifts and took them individually shopping to pick out a gift for a child we were assigned. Every year I would bring my kids and their friends to wrap gifts for at least one cottage during the season. As my children grew, it became part of their Christmas and they had even taken on their own lists to organize and buy for. We would usually try to be available for any last-minute kids who needed gifts. It is not only a great way to help bring Christmas to kids who are in need, but an opportunity for my children to learn the real meaning of Christmas. As my kids left for college, I started including my co-workers at Re/Max to help sponsor kids. This year we bought gifts for 4 kids and had over 15 staff members come wrap presents! I am certain that participating in the program blesses the donors just as much as the Children on Christmas morning. It brings Christmas into perspective.
We love to participate in the program to hopefully give some kids hope and share the love of God. To let them know, there are people who love them and want them to have their physical desires met by God’s grace and love for them. It has been a blessing to receive the kids lists, review them, then go shopping to search out the things they’ve asked for. Honestly, I also love the challenge of finding things they want, trying to figure out “who they are” through the notes of hobbies/favorite color, etc. and finding things that they will love. On Christmas morning, before opening our gifts, we pray a pray of thanksgiving for God’s generous gifts toward us and we pray for the kids at CCHO who are opening the gifts we purchased. Praying they are surprised and unbelievably blessed by them.
Our youth group refers to it as “Holiday Smiles.” We have had other churches help over the years and most recently for the last 3 years Ohio University – Chillicothe Social Work program (SSWA) has also partnered with us to purchase the gifts. We started Holiday Smiles not only to give to the children at CCHO, but to create a service project for our own kids at BSCC. Holiday Smiles has become a tradition at BSCC starting every June at VBS. The collecting runs during certain fundraising events from VBS, craft shows, bake sales and chicken noodle dinners. It teaches our children to help others and give what they can and when they can. Organizing Holiday Smiles over the last 19 years has been the highlight of our Christmas activities each year. As a bonus, our congregation enjoys reading the thank you cards that we display each year. It adds a personal connection with the children. What a blessing!