By Amy Shores
Director of Pastoral Care, Methodist Family Health
I have a pretty unpopular opinion. Unlike what feels like 95% of the population, Christmas is not my favorite holiday. I’m more of an Easter kind of girl. Give me spring, give me pastels and coconut candy and dyed eggs, not to mention the joyous and triumphant celebrations that happen in churches on Easter Sunday morning, and I’m happy. However, that being said, my affinity for Advent has started to grow during my time with Methodist Family Health.
I’m beginning to like Christmas more and more because of the amazing things that I am able to experience each year during the season. In October, we start looking for families, individuals, Sunday School classes and youth groups to “adopt a wish list.” Those in our care all have the chance to create a Christmas wish list, so we need donors and shoppers who are willing to turn those wishes into realities. Between our residential treatment facilities, our hospital in Maumelle, our day schools, our CARES program, our group homes, and a few of our outpatient clinics, we provided Christmas wish lists for more than 200 individuals last year. So, beginning in October, I have the chance to start talking with all of the wonderful donors who make this happen.
Once donors are in place, I get to move on to collecting wish lists! It’s so fun listening to kids’ dreams and getting excited about gifts—more than once I’ve had kids tell me this is the first time they’ve been able to have a list like this. Once lists are done, I pass them on to donors who shop and then drop-off gifts, and then myself and other volunteers process them with a giant two-day wrapping extravaganza. My last step in our gift process is delivering the gifts to our facilities, where they are opened on Christmas morning!
Along with all of the gifts, we also have a variety of parties and programs at all of our different facilities, and I make it my goal to be at as many of them as I can! I have to admit, though, that I have a favorite Christmas activity when it comes to Methodist Family Health. Our CARES moms, who are our ladies in treatment for mental illness and addiction, create not only a wish list for themselves, but they also make a list for each of their children. Instead of wrapping their kids’ gifts at our big volunteer wrapping event, we set the CARES kids’ gifts aside and they get to have their own party, where we have snacks, listen to Christmas music, and the moms set to work preparing gifts for their children. I will never forget walking into the wrapping room last year to find a mom sitting in the middle of a stack of presents, sobbing. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that she had never had this many gifts for her children and that she had never once wrapped them. Her recovery was giving her the chance to provide something for her kids (and honestly, for herself) that she had always wanted.
It was more than just her recovery that provided this chance, however. It was the UMW group that provided the party, it was the donors who bought the gifts, and it was the continued generosity of Arkansas United Methodists that help our programs continue to exist. If you are interested in adopting a wish-list, in helping wrap gifts, in providing a Christmas party, or in some other way helping volunteer and bring Christmas to the kids at Methodist Family Health, we would love to have your participation.
Please contact Amy Shores at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wish lists will be ready before Black Friday, and we need all gifts back by Dec. 13, in order to get them wrapped and delivered!