Delivering joy to the world! 85 churches engage in gift-giving through Project Noel
By Amelia Ballew
"Merry Christmas!" The holiday greeting rang out from a handful of volunteers as they met delivery teams from United Methodist churches, arriving at the Project Noel central warehouse in Oklahoma City.
Santa’s helpers from 85 churches trekked from near and far across the state to receive nationally donated items to share with those in need in their communities.
Annually, several shipments of mystery inventory are trucked to the warehouse during December, then distributed through churches’ efforts. Project Noel is sponsored by the Oklahoma Conference’s Small/Rural Church Commission.
On Dec. 11, grateful "elves" shuffled through the rows of items, choosing and counting materials that would best suit the needs they sought to fulfill. Having anything to give needy families to make their Christmas happier was a blessing, according to those asked.
James Lambert, associate pastor at Enid-Willow View, and Mike Phelan, a member at Enid-Bethany, partnered to pick out gifts for families that receive support through Bethany’s food pantry. Phelan said that includes about 150 children.
Dorothy Harkrider from Tulsa-Memorial Drive UMC was seeking gifts for Jones Elementary School students.
Five members from Hitchcock UMC carpooled to pick out presents for distribution through their church, two other churches (Cleo Springs and Waynoka), and the Head Start program for preschoolers in Cherokee.
Warehouse coordinator Chris Talley expressed special thanks for two people who regularly volunteer to help him. Leon Robinson and Coleah Haywac have been helping in the warehouse for about five years.
At OKC-St. John’s, Robinson and Haywac participate in Connected Hands, an organization that helps foster-care families. St. John’s church provides its facility for the group to meet weekly.
"One day a few years ago, Elaine Parrent asked if we could help out down here at Project Noel," Robinson said. Parrent is a UM deaconess serving at St. John’s. "We said yes because they help us out so much."
In the opening pick-up days for Project Noel 2012, most of the items in the supply chain were books. Selections from the "Twilight Series" surely were popular with teens. Among other choices were Spanish/English stories for children and two books drawing from "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." As volunteers delved into more mystery boxes, they found 25 Santa books, signed by the author.