12/17/17 — Giving in the season: Groups come together to help those in need

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Giving in the season: Groups come together to help those in need

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 17, 2017 3:05 AM

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Tamya Williams, 11, and her mother, Charlene Sutton, look through a pile of sweaters in the gym at First Baptist Church during Christmas in the City. Sutton is attending for the second year in a row and is thankful for events like it that help people who are less fortunate.

A free hot breakfast and clothing giveaway ushered in the holiday season for the sixth year as Christmas in the City took place Saturday morning in downtown Goldsboro.

The event was split between two churches on John Street -- St. Paul's United Methodist for the meal and First Baptist Church to pick out clothes and other items.

Craig Wolfe and Aaron Bissette, both from The Lord's Table Church, were positioned outside of First Baptist to direct families.

They had arrived early for the event, which kicked off at 8 a.m.

"We did have people lined up, probably a dozen," Bissette said. "They were there at 7:30."

The men have faithfully volunteered for several years, from when it was all held in one place, at St. Paul's, before being divided between there and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, to this year's setup between churches across the street from one another.

"It's just a way to give back to the community and a way to show love, to show God's love and to brighten they day," Wolfe said. "It fills me up. It's a huge blessing."

Wolfe's wife, Diane, was stationed at the entrance to the fellowship hall, where tables had been set up with the various items for selection.

She has had "years of experience" in the job, she said, six to be exact.

Georgia Tanner was 19 years old when she spearheaded the first event in her community. She is pleased with how the annual drive continues.

"It's been fun to kind of see it grow," she said. "We have a lot of people this year who are working to help run the event, and they're very passionate."

There is an ongoing effort to find ways to expand Christmas in the City, from involving more churches to making sure the outreach benefits families in her hometown.

"This was just an important, fun event that we could bring everybody together for Christmas," Tanner said. "The goal is to carry that into the new year and just spread that kind of giving spirit.

"You see so many people in the community that have just stepped up to the plate. It's incredible. So many people behind the scenes are being part of it."

Her family, including younger sisters, twins Crawford and Mary Margaret, have been big supporters.

"To me, seeing someone get a warm coat and a hat and a scarf and the smile on their face is what makes this so special," Crawford said.

Her cousin, David Gurley, 16, got involved a few years ago.

"I have been helping people find stuff that they need so that they can stay warm," he said, with the reward becoming quickly apparent -- "to see their faces whenever they get what they really want. I think that's the thing that always surprises me is that people are just happy with what they get and they're always able to find what they want."

From clothing and coats to blankets, accessories and toys, the donations meet a need, especially during the winter months and around the holidays.

The Lord's Table, through its prayer shawl ministry, also provided an abundance of knitted items, including scarves, neck cozies and baby hats.

"It's our mandate as Christians to help those who are less fortunate or run into hard times," explained Duane Banks, outreach pastor at The Lord's Table.

At St. Paul's, the hot meal definitely offset the brisk early morning temperatures.

On average, there were probably about 100 who took advantage of the free food, prepared and served by men of the church.

"And we give away children's Bibles to those who don't have them," added Marlee Ray.

Carmen Harlee of Goldsboro was there with her sons, Andres, 9, and Anthony, 11.

"This is my first time," she said, learning about the event on Facebook and later receiving an invitation.

The timing could not have been better, as she was seeking help, she said.

"I'm a single mother of six," she said -- including 17-year-old twins, a 15-year-old, the two boys with her and a 2-year-old at home.

In addition to searching for Christmas gifts for her children, she turned up Saturday looking for "winter stuff like jackets, long-sleeved shirts and pajamas," she said.

"We got a good breakfast to start the day," she said.

Her sons agreed.

"Breakfast was great," Anthony said. "I just like eating. I like eating everything together."

Andres' favorite part of the meal was the pancakes and sausage, he said.

The unexpected gift of the morning, though, was the way they were made to feel.

"How welcoming and homey it felt walking through those doors," Harlee said.

"I felt welcome when I came in here," Anthony added.

Abz Shabzz, sitting at a table after enjoying his breakfast, had already been to First Baptist, where he picked up a pair of dress pants and a wool sweater.

He was grateful for the early gifts of the season, he said, and those in the community who provided them.

"God is using them for what He intends for it to be," he said.

"I mean, love one another and help one another, be kind to one another. That's what it's all about."