St. Anthony churches preach community outreach during the holidays
Churches visit seniors, raise funds, give gifts — all in the spirit of the season
While there’s lots of holiday cheer to go around during the Christmas season, for many people it can be hard to share in the spirit of the season.
For some, including the elderly and those who are shutin, Christmas can be a lonely time. For others, the financial burden can be difficult to bear, especially during an economic downturn as seen on the Great Northern Peninsula.
But during the holidays, there are those who step in to fill the gap, all in the spirit of the season.
In St. Anthony, area churches are amongst those to take the initiative and reach out to members of the community who need it most.
There are five churches in St. Anthony — Anglican, Salvation Army, Catholic, United and Pentecostal. During the Christmas season they all do their part to help others.
For instance, together they organize a Carol Fest. Each year, one of the churches hosts the event where they all come together to sing carols. It has been going on for a number of years.
But they also raise money through the Carol Fest, which is then donated to the local food bank, while people also bring along non-perishable food items to donate. The funds raised also go towards purchasing Christmas gift certificates which are distributed, by request, throughout the season. This helps ensure that everyone has a Christmas meal.
The Anglican Church and the Salvation Army spoke to The Northern Pen about other kinds of outreach they do during the holidays.
Last year, the Anglican Church started a “Tree of Hope” to facilitate gift giving to the less fortunate.
The church has a tree with notes hanging from it, each note suggesting a gift idea.
Churchgoers will take a note, get the gift written on it, and bring it back to the church. Those gifts will go towards helping local families.
Visiting Furthermore, both the Anglican Church and Salvation Army pick a date to visit St. Anthony seniors each year, bringing them a little gift and lots of Christmas cheer.
Ethel Rumbolt, president of the Anglican Church Women, says for the past seven or eight years, the church has been delivering baskets to local seniors, containing fruits, candy and a Christmas card.
They are visited by Rev. Katie Taylor-Flynn, some of the Anglican Church Women and jolly old Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus himself.
“We sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas, have a chat with the seniors and then Rev. Katie will have a prayer, and then we go to the next place,” Rumbolt told The Northern Pen. “Last year, we left at 10 a.m. and we got home about 6:30 in the evening.”
Rumbolt was emotional talking about the response this initiative gets from seniors.
“You go in and you see people cry and you see people laugh,” she said. “It was the highlight of Christmas and what I think Christmas is all about.”
This year the seniors will be treated to something new, as they will be serenaded by the Anglican Church Youth Choir. The young singers will accompany the others for the visit, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army, through its Community Care Ministries, delivers “sunshine bags” to 70-plus year-old seniors in St. Anthony and area each Christmas.
This is done under the leadership of Lester and Donna Budgell.
Each year, they will pack bags with items including fruits, cloths, soap and more.
“It’s just a little something to let the older folk, and those who are shut-in, know that we care about them,” said St. Anthony Salvation Army Captain David Rideout.
These items are delivered to residents of the John M. Gray and Shirley’s Haven, patients at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital and to homes of seniors in St. Anthony, St. Lunaire-Griquet and surrounding communities.
Like the Anglican Church, they sing carols during the visits.
Captain Melanie Rideout said she felt blessed to be in a place where the needs are not great.
But, with an economic downturn, particularly in the fishery, she says the church is there to help anybody with a “hand up”, not just with a “hand out”.
For Rideout, the reason they do it all comes back to the Salvation Army’s motto.
“I always go back to the Salvation Army’s motto ‘Giving hope today’,” she said. “I think this is why we do it.
“We want to give hope to those who are feeling a little bit down and out this time of year, who are looking for a little help with the extra expense around Christmas.”
David and Melanie Rideout are the captains of the Salvation Army in St. Anthony.
Ethel Rumbolt is the president of the St. Anthony Anglican Church Women.