For most people, the Christmas holidays are full of joyous celebrations with family and friends; however, this isn’t true for many local families who are struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times. One out of every six people in our area are food-insecure, which means that they may not have enough food or money for their next meal. Incredibly, many food-insecure people are not homeless—more than 94 percent that need help either rent or own their own home.
The Brandon Gift of Hope has provided Christmas gifts and meals to more than local 600 families each year since 2011. This is a multi-church community and has partnered with many other local area churches to provide people with holiday toys and food. Each year, registered people and families will find a hospitality area, a prayer chapel, a shopping area (where each guest selects gifts for their children they registered for), a gift wrap area and a gift card for a holiday meal.
Melanie Langston, the registration and volunteer coordinator for this program, is excited to be part of this meaningful outreach again this year.
“I enjoy being part of a multi-church and business outreach for the community around us,” said Langston. “I love being a part of a community that takes cares of each other.”
Langston also mentioned that one of her favorite things to look forward to each year is the registration team. “We have served together (all from different churches) for at least 10 years,” said Langston. “I look forward to September every year to planning ahead for the event and seeing the team.”
Currently, the greatest need for this year’s event is toy donations and getting the community registered. Registration is open from now until Friday, December 3. Registration is taking place at ECHO of Brandon at 507 N. Parson Ave. in Brandon from Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and on Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. An additional registration site is ECHO of Riverview, located at 7807 Capitano St. in Riverview from Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Registrants must bring a picture ID, an original social security card and proof of address.
The actual event is taking place from Wednesday, December 15 through Friday, December 17 at New Hope Church, located at 213 N. Knights Ave. in Brandon. For more information about volunteering, donations and people who would like to register to be recipients at this outreach, please visit www.brandongiftofhope.com or call 485-5604.