Local high school students are shown sorting through toys donated to Greater Brandon Gift of Hope.

Greater Brandon Gift of Hope is a multi-church outreach that provides a traditional Christmas meal and Christmas gifts to families in need. Hundreds of families in the Greater Brandon area are food-insecure. Hunger not only affects the homeless—often, families have to choose between paying a bill or purchasing food.

To help fill the gap, the Gift of Hope ministry rallies local churches to join together and tangibly demonstrate the love of Jesus to those in their community. This year’s combined effort includes 10 churches that will collect the Christmas meal items, toys, gift wrap and other items.

Over three days, volunteers from multiple denominations will assemble at the First Baptist Church of Brandon to distribute meal items and help parents ‘shop’ for their children’s Christmas gifts. This year’s distribution dates are Thursday, December 12 and Friday, December 13 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, December 14 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

“I’m eagerly anticipating this year’s upcoming event,” said Kit Enriquez, who, along with her husband, Eric Enriquez, has been involved with Gift of Hope for the last 6-7 years.

She continued, “We’ve helped on occasion in the prayer chapel, but I’ve had the privilege of running the gift wrap area for three to four of those years. It’s an honor to serve each person, look in their eyes, hear their story and pray with and for them. The experience is always exhausting, but in a beautiful way. I consider it a mission trip into my own community.”

For families to participate, they must reside in the Greater Brandon area and will be vetted through Brandon’s Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO). To sign up, participants will need a picture ID, security card and proof of address. The list of zip codes being served can be found on the Gift of Hope website. For questions, call 485-5604.

Last year, Gift of Hope served close to 657 families and had 380 registered volunteers. For those who wish to volunteer but are not connected to a church, help is needed during the distribution days. You can sign up for a time slot online through the Gift of Hope website at www.brandongiftofhope.com. Volunteers must be 14 years or older (unless accompanied by an adult).

Donations of food items and toys are also appreciated. To see a list of requested items, please visit the Gift of Hope website. ECHO will accept donations during regular business hours. If you would rather make a monetary donation, the option to purchase a turkey is available online. First Baptist Church of Brandon is located at 216 N. Parsons Ave.