Ahead of each Christmas season, the staff always prepares for a flurry of activity. Lists are made, gifts are purchased, requests for donations go out, and celebrations are planned. Christmas 2020 definitely had some big changes in store for us all! However, as he has done throughout the past challenging year, God continued to lift us up and carry us through these changes and challenges, even when they required very quick pivots!
We were able to carry forward with our Christmas toiletry drive and gift bag assembly for families and individuals in our community with only some slight adjustments for pandemic procedures. These also included gift cards for groceries and other essentials and a Christmas greeting from Streetlight. We are so thankful for the churches who participated this year and to Alice Schenkel and other members of the Women of the Word Bible Study group who assisted in coordinating and packing the bags along with the staff. We were able to distribute 56 family bags and over 50 bags for individuals. Volunteers from Redemption Church also packed over 50 individual bags for the residents of Victoria Manor home in downtown Hamilton.
Each year we also purchase Christmas gifts for the children and youth connected to Streetlight. This year, each of them received a new t-shirt with a riff on the tagline that we announced in 2020: “Good News. Bright Hope.” This continues to be such a timely message as we struggle through a lengthy global health crisis that has caused a lot of despair and brings a lot of sad news. In addition to this gift, the teens received gift cards for favourite coffee shops or restaurants and the kids received toys, books, crafts, or games. We were blessed with several families being willing to help provide funds for or to shop for these gifts. Due to a move to the Red Zone in November, our programs had to be drastically cut down in size and we had to put our volunteers on standby. Many of these individuals and their families were enthusiastic to assist with purchasing gifts in order to maintain connections with kids and teens they have come to know and love!
The biggest COVID casualty to our Christmas season was the parties and gatherings we look forward to all year with the different clubs and Bible study groups. This inspired us to make sure we could make another of our annual events, The Streetlight Christmas Store, something that would still be memorable for all. This is an annual event for the children in our Kids Club, Girls Club, and Boys Club programs. This year, Attercliffe Canadian Reformed Church and Providence Canadian Reformed Church joined long-time partners Rehoboth United Reformed Church to collect donations of gifts for siblings, parents, grandparents, other caregivers, and teachers.
This year, we could only host 10 people at a time in the building, so we quickly made the decision to break the shopping into seven sessions to make sure as many of the kids could participate as possible. We were apprehensive about the busy days this would bring and the logistics of arranging this, but were so thankful to be able to still hold this event and for the unique experience it provided. Since each session had such a small group, we were able to really connect with each child as they chose their gifts and get to know more about their families and their Christmas traditions. It was a really beautiful way to wrap up a year that had made connecting personally with others such a challenge. We also had the opportunity with each group to reflect on the Christmas message–the hope of the birth of our Saviour. In Kids Club we had just been covering the stories of Abraham and the covenant God had made with him. Erik was able to tie this to the star that guided the magi to the baby Jesus, to His role as Bright Morning Star and to our role as stars that can shine His message of hope brightly to the world. Decorations made for the store and meeting room reflected this theme.
As we continue to operate in even more restricted ways at the outset of 2021, we know we can cling to the Good News and share hope with our community, that we might “shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:15b, NIV).
By Danielle Heemskerk, Youth Worker