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Hernando churches pitch in to bring Christmas to needy children

The principal of Parrott Middle School, Ed Larose, looks at bikes donated to needy children at his school by The Matthew Project last Christmas. [Monte Patterson]
Published Nov. 14

Three faith-based organizations in Hernando County are making sure needy children receive presents this Christmas. They need help.

Hernando County Salvation Army

“Helping kids experience Christmas is a wonderful opportunity that we have,” said Lt. Julie Chamberlain of the Hernando County Salvation Army. “I can’t think of any better way to spend the holidays than giving back to other people.”

Those who want to participate in Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program are asked to take an “angel tag” with information about the needs and wants of a particular child from one of the ministry’s trees. They are placed at the three local Wal-Marts, Burn Boot Camp, Robinson’s Chiropractic, Family Chiropractic and Ring Power. The gender and age and clothing sizes are listed.

“When I was a child, I received gifts from the Salvation Army, and it made a huge impact on my life,” Chamberlain said. “Here I am, an officer today. We never know how it’s going to impact somebody.”

People can drop off purchased, unwrapped gifts by Dec. 16 at the local ministry at 15464 Cortez Blvd., in Brooksville.

Volunteers are welcome to help with all the Salvation Army’s holiday programs, including Angel Tree, a Thanksgiving meal and the Red Kettle ministry. People can sign up online at salvationarmyflorida.org/hernando.

According to the Salvation Army USA Web page, about 1 million children who would otherwise go without gifts are helped through their organization each Christmas. Chamberlain said they are looking for additional community partners to host trees or adopt families. Monetary gifts also are welcome.

“Last year, we had to spend a little over $2,000 to make up the difference, because we just didn’t get enough in donations,” she said.

Call (352) 796-1186.

The Matthew Project

The Matthew Project has been helping families in need since 2010, when founder Monte Patterson was asked by people working with the BackPack Food Program to provide Christmas gifts for homeless children and their siblings who attend Brooksville-area public schools.

“Last year, our sponsors provided Christmas for almost 600 homeless and extremely impoverished children,” Patterson said. “If it weren’t for the selfless generosity of these sponsors, many of these children would go without a Christmas.”

Information about individual children is given to the project by school counselors in early November. Churches, businesses and organizations purchase gifts for the students that are picked up by Patterson and his volunteers in mid-December to be wrapped and delivered to the schools between Dec. 11 and Dec. 22.

Individuals who would like to provide gifts for a child can contact Patterson.

“People sometimes group together to sponsor a child,” Patterson said. “Any type of group, business, church, anybody can be a sponsor. Volunteer help is needed, as well, right up to the last day.”

Monetary donations and gift cards (preferably for Walmart) are accepted year-round, but are needed especially now through Dec. 24.

“Last year, we ended up with 30 kids not sponsored, but because of donations, we were able to provide for them all,” Patterson said. “We also provide church information for each child, so if they do not currently have a church they attend, they know there is one that already loves them and provides them with the ultimate hope.”

Contact Patterson at (352) 279-5985 or mpfepc@aol.com. Learn more and see photos on Facebook at The Matthew Project Brooksville.

Operation Christmas Child

Each November, Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, asks churches, groups and individuals to pack a shoe box filled with gifts for needy children throughout the world. Participants can select a child to sponsor from one of three age groups and whichever gender they prefer. They can find a list of suggestions of what to pack at samaritanspurse.org/occ.

Gifts are put in an unwrapped shoe box and taken to one of four area churches designated drop-off sites during the week of Nov. 18. Money can also be donated online to have a box packed by the ministry.

Cardboard boxes are available at the drop-off sites. Plastic boxes with the Operation Christmas Child logo can be purchased at Hobby Lobby, 12950 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill, or online for $2.99.

Call for drop off times at these churches:

  • Wilderness Lake Church, 15511 US Hwy 41, Spring Hill, (352) 302-1342.
  • First Baptist Church of Brooksville, 420 Howell Ave., (352) 796-6791.
  • Spring Hill Baptist Church, 3140 Mariner Blvd., (352) 683-5685.
  • Calvary Chapel Hernando, 5155 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, (352) 650-8455.

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