EAST LIVERPOOL - A coalition formed by the St. Clair Township Patrolmen's Association, Walmart, Oak Glen middle school students and even Santa Claus teamed together to brighten up the holidays for area families during St. Stephen's Episcopal Church's free Christmas dinner on Saturday.
By 11 a.m. Saturday, the basement of St. Stephen's was already filling with local families enjoying a free hardy Christmas dinner as St. Clair Township police officers James Briggs and Scott Mick showed up with a check on behalf of the St. Clair Township Patrolmen's Association.
Earlier this year, St. Clair Township Detective Troy Walker spearheaded the first ever "Fill-a-Cruiser" campaign. Through the generous donations of the public, St. Clair Township officers and their families were able to collect about four cruisers full of gifts and food for area children in need.
Santa made a stop at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Saturday to get children’s last-minute wishes for Christmas morning. (Photo by Devin Bezeredi)
Briggs noted that the department also received some monetary donations during the campaign and decided the Good Shepherd would be a good way to put the money toward helping underprivileged families. "We decided to donate the money to the church to help people in need during Christmas time," said Briggs.
The St. Clair Township Patrolmen's Association was not alone in displaying their Christmas generosity. Staff from the Calcutta Walmart also stepped up with a monetary donation and volunteered their time serving food at the dinner. Walmart Assistant Manager Wendy Jo Lockhart explained that employees have been volunteering all year long as part of a program called "Volunteerism Always Pays."
Lockhart explained that for every hour employees volunteer their time at various charities, Walmart awards a grant to a local charity. Some 25 employees volunteered this year, enabling Walmart to give a generous grant to the Good Shepherd's lunch program.
St. Stephen's Outreach Director Gary Cunningham said he was grateful to have the St. Clair Township Patrolmen's Association and Walmart embrace the spirit of the holidays.
In addition to the dinner, St. Stephen's further answered the call to help families in need by distributing clothes and toys to children during the dinner.
Cunningham noted that while it's good to be charitable around Christmas time, many area families are in need year-round, which is why the Good Shepherd hosts monthly free dinners on the fourth Saturday of each month.
Last month alone, St. Stephen's served about 300 people according to Cunningham. Helping serve all those people were students from Oak Glen Middle School, who are becoming a regular sight at the monthly dinners.
Under the guidance of middle school Student Council advisor Mandy McGeehan, Oak Glen middle school students volunteered their time and learned what the holiday is really all about.