North Shore Community Church Renews Annual Angel Tree Project | Herald Community Newspapers
By Jennifer Corr
Last Sunday morning, faithful from North Shore Community Church attended the service wearing masks and seated in all other socially distanced pews. Together, surrounded by stained glass windows reflecting the December sun, they sang songs of worship and listened to Reverend John Yenchko’s sermon.
“It was a wonderful morning for us,” said Yenchko. “We had probably 70 people in the room and maybe 200 more in line, and a number of them are kids and teens. We have a lot of children and teenagers in our church, so it’s always encouraging.
Many of these devotees will bring wrapped gifts for children they have never met but who want to help have a thrilling Christmas.
While the coronavirus pandemic has presented many challenges for the church this year, Yenchko said, it has shown the generosity of staff, management and its members. The Angel Tree Christmas Gift Project, a 15-year program that aims to bring Christmas gifts to Long Island children whose parents may not be able to afford them, is part of this generosity.
“I was in the church [for five to six years] and willing to serve, ”said Robert Pomeroy, a member who helps organize the program each year. “My own children are grown up. We don’t really give gifts anymore. It’s a way for me to stay closer to the magic of Christmas.
The Angel Tree Christmas Gift Program began as a ministry to children whose parents were detained at the Nassau County Correctional Center.
“We would be able to get names from this church in Uniondale that would match that list,” Yenchko said. “We would buy gifts and then deliver them to these houses and say, ‘This is from your mother; it comes from your father.
Although it was a touching experience, Yenchko said, over the years people have become more private and those lists of names are no longer available.
Going forward, Memorial Presbyterian Church, a longtime partner of the North Shore Community Church through its pantry, had a list of customers who weren’t able to deliver Christmas. that they wanted for their children. So North Shore started buying gifts for the kids in the pantry. customers instead.
Last year, North Shore had 74 children on its gift recipient list, but this year, amid the financial crisis created by the lingering pandemic, the church aims to help 226 children have a merry Christmas.
Joanne Harrison-Smith, who works with the deacons ministry at Memorial Presbyterian, said there were three times as many requests for gifts as in previous years.
“The number of people coming to food banks all over the region, and I imagine in other parts of the country, has increased,” Pomerow said. “So many people work simple hourly jobs, a lot of them no longer have their jobs. You can’t come back. It is a difficult thing.
Yenchko said he too has noticed an increase in the need for support, be it food, financial or psychological. But, he added, he also noticed an increase in generosity. “People are ready to share,” he said.
One of Pomeroy’s favorite parts of working on the program is handing out the freebies. Harrison-Smith explained: “What we do is, once we take the names of our guests, we ask them how many children they have in their family,” as well as their age and gender. “When they come to shop,” added Harrison-Smith, “we give them a bundle of gifts.”
Helping families is a blessing, she says.
The Angel Tree Christmas Gift Project is one of the many missions that North Shore Community Church is involved in. She also sends resources to missions in Cambodia, Benin and Haiti and manages a pantry and a thrift store serving the local community.