Sharing Christmas spirit

Dana Muckelvaney with the Kiawah Island Community Association paints a child's face Dec. 10 at the Convoy of Hope on Johns Island. More than 1,300 people came out to Haut Gap Advanced Studies Magnet School for free groceries, haircuts, health and medical education and more. The Convoy of Hope, coordinated by Without Walls Ministry, was held at other locations around the Lowcountry and was the impetus for the Birthday Party for Jesus set for Christmas Day at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

They're calling it a birthday party for Jesus.

Hundreds of volunteers will take time out on Christmas Day to serve a big meal and give out gifts to the needy.

They're expecting so many people that they've reserved Johnson Hagood Stadium.

"A lot of people are lonely and hurting at this time of year," said Gordon Cashwell, pastor of Hope Assembly of God on King Street who is coordinating the event through Without Walls Ministry.

"It's sad that this season is a time when more alcohol is consumed than any other time of year. More consumer debt is accrued, more domestic violence. I don't think this is a happy birthday for Jesus. So we're doing something to see if we can't put a different spin on it that would be pleasing to him."

Cashwell's relying on the network of volunteers that fed more than 500 people in Hampton Park on Thanksgiving Day and took part in the Convoy of Hope that served several thousand people in four locations earlier this month.

He's hoping for 2,000 volunteers on Christmas Day to serve at least 500 people. They plan for some of the volunteers to go into the neighborhoods delivering food, too.

"We just want to encourage people to come and serve to celebrate the birth of Christ," he said.

Jimmy Johnson, a former restaurant owner, is coordinating the meal. He's been going around to stores to see what he can round up. He also coordinated the Thanksgiving meal at Hampton Park.

Johnson learned to appreciate the plight of the less fortunate after he was laid off from a local hotel's banquet division two years ago. He was evicted from his home, his car was repossessed and he lived on the streets for 10 months.

"That was a pilgrimage for me," he said. "It took me to a better place as a person."

He learned anybody could lose everything in a heart beat.

"People don't realize how difficult it's been for a lot of people," he said. "It's an eye-opening world out there right now."

The men's group from St. Andrew's Church in Mount Pleasant plan to fry 30 turkeys on Christmas Eve. They've been involved with the Convoy of Hope for several years. "Everybody likes fried turkey, and it gives us an opportunity to get together as men," said Kurtz Smith, director of the men's ministry.

Some groups, including Redeemer Presbyterian Church on Wentworth Street, are filling decorated shoeboxes with little gifts. Several hundred shoeboxes were stacked at Hope Assembly last week. Many of those making the shoebox gifts also will show up Christmas Day to serve.

"I'm going to show up, and whatever there is to do, I'll do," said the Rev. Greg Bailey, Redeemer Presbyterian's pastor.

Jordan Crabb, a fifth-grader at Fort Dorchester Elementary School, is collecting 5,000 pairs of socks for the event. She collects socks for the needy through Warm Feet, Happy Hearts, a growing ministry she started two years ago.

She got a boost a couple of weeks ago when her karate instructor, Todd Carroll of the Japan Karate Institute on Dorchester Road, held a kick-a-thon to raise money to buy more socks. He counted off as 20 students, including Jordan, each executed 5,000 kicks to raise $1,700.

"Well, yes!" she exclaimed when asked if it was hard.

She also has several schools, churches and athletic teams collecting socks for her. She recently sent some to children in Swaziland and Uganda.

She got the idea after volunteering at a Christmas festival for the needy at Hampton Park that Without Walls Ministry coordinated a couple of years ago. Jordan was helping take off shoes for the jump castle and noticed many children didn't have socks.

"When I put their shoes back on, I was so sad to feel their cold little feet," she said then.

Jordan is collecting new socks in their packages through December at the Chick-fil-A on Dorchester Road near Ashley Phosphate Road and at the Zaxby's on Dorchester Road near Ashley Phosphate, University Boulevard near Charleston Southern University and Shelby Ray Court off the Glenn McConnell Parkway in West Ashley.


Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.