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Pathfork church members bring Christmas to The Laurels

Residents of The Laurels enjoyed their annual Christmas party this week when the Rev. Mark Taylor and several members of Pathfork Holiness Church arrived bearing boxes of brightly wrapped Christmas packages and delicious hot pizza for everyone.

“All the staff at The Laurels appreciate them so much,” said activities director Freda Green. “They sure want to see our residents have a nice Christmas. The gifts they provide include things they really need, and some things they would just like to have. The residents look forward to this every year. A pizza party is so nice and a special treat. Everyone really liked it.”

“Freda gave us a list back in October of the things they need or maybe want. She tells us what size, sometimes even the color or style they like best,” the Rev. Taylor said. “This year we bought at least a dozen pairs of shoes, blue jeans, even underwear and socks, shampoo and stuff like that. And a few puzzle books. Seems like the needs outweighed the wants again this year.”

Taylor said his wife, Lisa, asked for donations from the legal and business community in Harlan. The rest comes from generous donations from members of their church. It takes about $1,500 to buy the presents, wrapping paper and food.

“Then the girls go shopping to buy all the items on the list. It takes a few weeks to pull it all together. And some of the larger sizes or hard to find items have to be ordered online. Then everything has to be boxed, wrapped and labeled,” he said. “But it’s a labor of love. It’s worth it all just to see them smile. I want them to know somebody loves them. They have not been forgotten.”

While church members busied themselves with the more practical matters of setting up for the party, the Rev. Taylor gathered everyone in the lobby to talk about the true meaning of Christmas. Opening his well-worn King James Bible, he watched residents slowly make their way down the hallways to huddle around and hear the story from the Book of Luke, a welcome tradition within these halls dating back several years, for both the reader and some of the listeners.

As they leaned against a wall, settled comfortably on couches and chairs around the room, or just stood quietly, the friendly smiles and nodding heads indicated both anticipation of and familiarity with the story. So quiet at times an elf might hear a pin drop, the story of the birth of Jesus filled the room. Perhaps the listeners were reminiscing about childhood Christmases years ago, or of Christmases not so very long ago with their own families.

Suddenly, it was time for residents to find their seats in the dining room and enjoy their evening snack. The solemn mood lightened quickly as church member Margie Cervantes led the group in singing Christmas carols. Moving from this one to that one, Cervantes encouraged everyone to sing along, not wanting anyone left out. Cheered on by their leader, residents were eager to join in. The strong voice of Tracy McLain easily stood out, as he was a member of his Baptist Church choir.

Talking to each other later in the evening, and acknowledging what a wonderful time everyone seemed to have, Cervantes was overheard saying “I’ve always said one of the most important things you can give someone is your time.”

As Santa arrived on the scene to “Here Comes Santa Claus” the merry group showed delight by cheering and clapping. Santa hugged and shook hands with those within reach, then took his position near the tree where bundles of gifts awaited. As he called out name after name, hands shot up here and there in response. “That’s me!” and “Over here!” As the evening wore on, residents could be heard shouting “Where’s mine?” “Have you got one for me?” Happily, Santa had a gift for everyone.

“I just love the elderly. When I first got saved I wanted to spend time with our Church elders. I learned a lot from them. Now my love for the elderly has only grown stronger. But I also love preaching God’s word, and telling everybody about Jesus,” Taylor said.

“I thank God for making the way. It looks like slim pickings around the middle of November, but by the time the girls are ready to go shopping we always have enough. Seems like God never gets in a hurry, but He’s always right on time.”

Throughout the festivities, residents couldn’t help noticing the youngest volunteers scurrying around helping out as best they could. The Gibbons girls, 5-year-old Anna Jo, 3-year-old Natalie and 11-month-old Abigail, handed out napkins and cupcakes and otherwise enjoyed themselves tremendously. Their mother Jessica Gibbons said “My pastor has always said something like children light up the world, and to see the joy my babies brought the people of the Laurels by their presence made my heart glad.”

In addition to the year-end Christmas party, Taylor has church services inside the chapel at The Laurels the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.

“We have a few faithful members that go with me each time that play music and sing,” Taylor said. “We have a good time in the Lord.”