Lions Club and St. Mary’s Ryken Give Gifts to Almost 50 Families
Published by The BayNet
By Zach Hill
Leonardtown, MD - December 22, 2019 - In just a few days, it will be Christmas morning; the family will wake up, gather around the tree, and tear into their new presents. At least that is what many families will do.
But the unfortunate reality is that there are families across the country who will be struggling just to keep the heat on this December, let alone giving their children the Christmas morning that they wish they could.
While St. Mary’s County is no exception to this situation, the county also has people who are willing to make sacrifices to spread Christmas cheer. The Leonardtown Lions Club and St. Mary’s Ryken High School(SMR) have been teaming up for about 10 years to provide Christmas presents to local impoverished families through a program they call “Christmas Caring.”
“First, we contact Human Resources in Leonardtown, and we ask for families all around St. Mary's County,” the Lions Club program organizer Theresa Fincham explained. “[The Lions Club] asked this year for 19 families and we got 19 families and I believe that was 35 children… and what we do is I get the [children’s] names and I put them on tags and the Leonardtown Ace Hardware has their tree display and they let us put our tags on their tree.
Usually before I put the names on the tree, our Leonardtown Lions pick out names first… then we put the leftovers on the tree and we put up a sign saying what day that the people need to bring them back.”
SMR’s process for collecting gifts could be described as similar, but on a bigger scale. Luke Young, the school’s program coordinator and a theology instructor, explained how the school’s philanthropic reach helped them to gather gifts for 28 families.
“I figure out how many advisors[also known as homerooms] we have, and I [place] one child, not family, but one child per advisor,” Young said. “Each student brings in five bucks and we facilitate it in Student Council. Some advisors do better than others so we distribute the money to make sure that all things are equal. Then I put out an email and we get lots of other people from administration and faculty and staff members who adopt a child as well.”
Once all of the gifts have been collected, they are kept in one building at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown until the day of distribution, Dec. 21. And on that brisk Saturday morning, students and Lions Club members gathered to load up bundles of presents into over 10 vehicles that would prepare to spread some extra Christmas joy across the county.
“The families are so appreciative and we don't mind taking the time out for doing this,” Fincham said. “I’m just happy to see everybody getting something and when we call them and tell them we have their names and that we're bringing them gifts… they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, thank you so much for doing this for our family.’”
However, the impact that the gifts have on the families appears to fall short of how impacted those making the deliveries are affected. Young says that some students have been so impacted in the past, that they have continued to help with the distribution process through multiple years.
“They all realize that it's bigger than them,” Young said. “We talk about in the Catholic Church, mercy. And it's important for [our students] to actually show mercy, and yes it costs them, but it does impact them and it opens them up to something that's greater than themselves.”
But the SMR students volunteering to make deliveries were not the only ones impacted. St. Mary’s County Commissioner President and Leonardtown Lions Club member, Randy Guy, spoke very candidly about the event and the impact that it has had on him in the past.
“To go out and see how some of the people live in our community, what they don't have, and to be able to deliver a good Christmas for their children,” Guy explained. “It’s probably the most touching thing [about] my Christmas.”
“When you're there, praying with a family that you've just met, and wishing each other well on Christmas,” Young said. “It impacts you in the soul.”
Additional photos are posted here.
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