OPEN ARMS: Ministry Ensures Families’ Christmas is Merry and Bright – The Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD – Andy and Michelle Williams’ daughters were so horny two nights before Christmas that the Fortville girls couldn’t fall asleep until around 3 a.m.

But it wasn’t the opening of their own gifts that they were eagerly awaiting.

The sisters, their parents, and a few other family members all gathered at the Hancock County Fairgrounds around 8 a.m. on December 24 to volunteer at A Day of Love and Caring – an annual event hosted by the ministry of God’s open arms that helps families in need provide a good Christmas for their children.

When the doors opened at 8:30 a.m., dozens of volunteers transformed the fairground sheepfold into a virtual North Pole, where families could choose from hundreds of toys to take home for their children, in addition to a Full Christmas dinner.

Skylar Williams, 15, and her cousin, Harper Perkins of McCordsville, were among the first two to guide a visitor through the sheepfold, helping him select bags full of clothes, electronics and toys for them. four children in her care – two grandchildren and two distant cousins, aged 8 to 17.

Barbara Parker said that without the generosity of God’s open arms, her grandchildren could not have a really good Christmas at all.

“I think it’s fantastic that they are doing this,” she said on Christmas Eve, as she loaded the unwrapped toy bags into her van, including a handful of dolls and makeup for. the girls, and a drone for the 17-year-old. boy on his list.

Each of the recipients who came to the fairground that day were paired with a volunteer who escorted them through the dozens of tables filled with goodies, including hundreds of toys, dolls, figurines, puzzles and board games.

Each child was limited to a certain combination of small, medium, large, and top-notch gifts, in addition to a bag of clothes and a pair of shoes and boots pre-sorted by size.

Local Changing Footprints nonprofits provided the shoes, while Journey Bags of Hancock County provided hundreds of stacks of clothing, including new underwear and socks.

Winter coats were also up for grabs.

Parker selected a white fleece coat and a pink hooded jacket for two of the girls she was looking after, and quickly picked out toys and other gifts, sometimes asking the teenage girls helping her what they thought. every child could love.

After his holiday shopping was done, the girls helped Parker haul the bags into his van, before heading to the fairgrounds showroom to pick up takeout boxes of turkey dinners to heat up for dinner. of Christmas.

This was the first year that the Day of Love and Caring event filled two entire buildings at the fairgrounds. Last year it was held as a driving event due to COVID, and for the previous seven years it was held only in the exhibition hall of the fairgrounds. The first giveaway in 2011 was held in the parking lot of a Greenfield church.

The God’s Open Arms ministry was founded by the couple Greenfield Dean and Peggy Couch, who founded the association in memory of their late son, Brandon, who died in 2009.

“Our (ministry) board is very much like family, and this (event) is truly a family affair,” said Peggy Couch as dozens of volunteers prepared to prepare for the day.

Between 200 and 250 volunteers were part of the team helping out on Christmas Eve, she said, in addition to others who collect and sort toys and other gifts throughout the year.

“We have a family that has a tradition of going out once a month and buying a toy on clearance. They made it a family project, Couch said.

Amanda Writt and her 15-year-old son Aiden McGee of New Palestine have helped with the Christmas Eve event for the past eight years.

“My son grew up doing this and he loves it. It’s my favorite part of Christmas, ”she said.

Andy Williams started bringing his family to volunteer on Christmas Eve about eight years ago, when his daughters – Skylar, 15, Karsynn, 13, and Presleigh, 11 – were little girls.

He was familiar with Diapers from their auto repair shop, Family Auto Repair in Greenfield – where the couple stores most of their ministry donations throughout the year – and asked what he and his family could do to help.

“It has become a tradition for us. The girls look forward to this every year, ”he said as his in-laws, Tom and Ruth Perkins, helped in the adjacent building prepare Christmas meals.

Williams even recruited some of his players from the Mt. Vernon boys’ basketball team he has coached over the years. On Friday, one of his former players entered with his own family, which the former player brought with him to help him year after year.

Briley Loggan, 26, of Rush County, has also been helping out for years, recruited by her aunt, Trisha Seybold, a longtime volunteer.

Talking about the gratitude she sees in recipients each year makes Loggan cry.

“One year, I helped a grandmother who had welcomed her four grandchildren,” she recalls. “She couldn’t afford to welcome them, but she did. It was great to know that we were helping her give them a great Christmas and a hot meal that day.

She led several recipients through the long rows of tables filled with goodies – including teething rings and Fisher-Price toys for the little ones, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, and makeup kits for the teens.

Three large bins overflowing with teddy bears and stuffed toys sat next to two other bins full of sports equipment. Another table was filled with stockings pre-stuffed with candy and other goodies.

Several dozen bags of toilet paper and other household essentials lined a long wall.

“It’s so amazing that people are coming together to do all of this for us,” Parker said, as she selected a pair of sparkly high top sneakers for her granddaughter and placed them in a large filled white plastic bag. of gifts.

She couldn’t wait to get home and wrap them all up, and whisper a thank you note while watching her family happily unwrap them on Christmas Day.

Martin E. Berry