By Amanda Boston
For seven years, the multi-church outreach known as Gift of Hope has provided a traditional Christmas meal and gifts to local families struggling to put food on their table.
In collaboration with the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) of Brandon, local area churches collect food items, toys and monetary donations while ECHO registers and sets appointment times for families to receive the donated items.
Melanie Langston is the volunteer and registration coordinator for Gift of Hope and said, “We are looking to register 800 appointments, which will include toys for their children, a food bag and a gift card to provide the Christmas dinner but more importantly the hope of Jesus Christ.”
For a three-day period, Gift of Hope volunteers come together to distribute meal items and organize an area filled with toys so that parents can ‘shop’ for their children’s Christmas gifts.
The Gift of Hope distribution days are Thursday, December 14 and Friday, December 15 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, December 16 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Brandon, located at 216 N. Parsons Ave.
First Baptist Church will also operate as a collection center for meal items or toys. Donations may be dropped off at the collection tent on the church property beginning Friday, November 24 from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. with the same hours on Saturday, November 25. The collection period continues through Saturday, December 16 with the weekly drop-off days and times of Wednesday through Friday 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
For a list of requested donations, visit the Gift of Hope website at www.brandongiftofhope.com. Additionally, ECHO and the Compassion House will accept donations during their regular business hours. If you would rather make a monetary donation, the option to purchase a turkey through PayPal is available online.
A multitude of volunteers is needed to execute an enterprise of this magnitude. Beginning on Monday, November 6, those who wish to volunteer can register for an activity and time slot on the Gift of Hope website. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old.
For families who wish to participate in Gift of Hope, they must register for an appointment at ECHO, located at 507 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon or at the Compassion House, located at 206 N. Moon Ave. in Brandon. For more information, contact Melanie Langston at 661-3696 ext. 324 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.