Byline: Beth Reese Cravey
Greg Netro, Denise Pecci and her husband, Alex Pecci, went to a poor, rural area of Jamaica for Christmas.
The Jacksonville-area residents took with them 18 bags of luggage stuffed with food, toys, soccer balls and other gifts for children who live in an orphanage that is little more than a shack. They also took the packages to patients at a clinic where the mentally and physically disabled are sent to die and the people of an isolated community that has no church.
The mission trip was arranged through Beach United Methodist Church and The Church of 1122, both in Jacksonville Beach, and a partner church, Faith Tabernacle in Claremont, Jamaica.
The three have been on similar trips before, but this one had an added urgency. They would be acting as fill-in Santa Clauses for another group that was supposed to bring Christmas to Claremont and the nearby town of Alderton but bailed out at the last minute.
Such trips typically take a year to plan, from collecting money and gifts to arranging transportation.
This one came together in two weeks.
"I'm amazed at the kind of support. It was all falling into place," said Denise Pecci, who works at Beach United Methodist.
They initially considered just shipping the food and gifts, but bringing them in luggage - despite the number of bags required - was less expensive, Netro said.
And the personal touch would be more gratifying for everyone involved.
"It's better to deliver stuff in person, to spend time with them," said Netro, vice president of the Jacksonville office of the Toll Brothers home-building company. "The biggest thing you can give to other people is your time."
With the support of their respective families, Netro and the Peccis postponed their own Christmas celebrations, and they and their 18 bags descended on Jacksonville International Airport on Thursday night. They were to return Christmas night.
The trip reminded them of the meaning of the season, Netro said. …