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Churches celebrate 20 years of donation tradition

Every Christmas, a group from Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Ellenboro, N. Carolina, gets together to bring food boxes and toys to Closplint Church of God, where they organize and pass out items to those in need. This year, members from both churches came together again on Sunday to mark the 20th consecutive year they have been able to help others – noting how much of a blessing it is to be able to continue their tradition.

Lucy Earls, a member of Oak Grove, said her and her church family first learned of Closplint 20 years ago when they first began coming at Christmas time to deliver donated items.

Earls said when the group first started coming to Closplint Church of God to deliver their donated items, some of the children there now “weren’t even thought of” yet now they’re having children of their own.

“We’ve seen, since we started, a lot of these children grow up and some of them have become parents now and we get to see their children, and that’s just been a blessing to me,” she said. “I think of some of these little blonde-headed girls running around here and now we’re buying for their babies.”

Earls said she was happy to see a lot of them were able to grow up and be able to make a living.

“When I get to Highway 119, I can’t hardly stand it. I just want to drive as fast as I can to get here. It really wouldn’t be Christmas for me without getting to come up here.”

Earls said she has people buying items all year, hoping they’re able to buy for the same family as the year before. She added her group uses some of the money from a church bazaar that takes place every year in October.

“We’ve never run short of money. I’ll have someone at church come up and ask me if I came out alright on my money and if I had enough for what I needed,” Earls said, adding people will see her out and give her money for the cause.

Earls also expressed a great amount of appreciation for Kim Kelly, who she says has been very helpful in getting the names and sizes of clothing for children living around Closplint.

“They’ve been a blessing to us for 20 years and we’ve made really good friendships over the years. I feel like I could call any of them, any time, any day, and I normally do call Lucy at night and we go over some stuff,” Kelly said. “We’ve enjoyed having them every year and we look forward to them coming back every time. We’re thankful for everything they’ve done and we love them all. A lot of families don’t even get gifts, these are all the gifts that they will get, so it’s just been a big blessing for the families.”

Kelly said without Frank Howard, the pastor at Closplint Church of God, none of the donations would be possible.

“Our pastor is such a blessing to this church. We couldn’t do it without him. He never wants the glory, it’s always about the Lord, he says, but a lot of it is about him,” she said. “He’s the backbone in our church and he’s gone through sickness but he’s still here every year. So we’re thankful for him.”

Earls said the group was able to bring 108 food boxes, a set of pillows for each family and gifts for 73 children this year, including toys for children while the giveaway was going on.

“We’re just so blessed and so proud that we’ve been able to do this for 20 years, and hopefully, the Lord will continue to let us do it,” Earls said. “I know we’re not fixing all the issues that everyone has, but maybe we can give people some hope and we can let people know that we love them because God loves them and we love God. I think God just wants all of us to be blessings to each other.”

Earls and Kelly said they hope to get together during the summer for a school supply giveaway to help offset the expenses many families face before school starts.