Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Brings Christmas to Needy Areas; Campaign Provides Food, Gifts and Games to 18 Neighborhoods

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Brings Christmas to Needy Areas; Campaign Provides Food, Gifts and Games to 18 Neighborhoods

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM SCHOETTLER

Families used to the reality of living in Jacksonville's most dangerous and depressed apartment complexes felt the compassion of humanity in a three-day church-sponsored Christmas cheer program that ended Saturday.

An estimated 2,200 families at 17 Jacksonville locations and one in Brunswick, Ga., were treated to boxes of groceries and toys passed out by the Evangel Temple Assembly of God. The event, which began Thursday, was part of the Westside church's fifth annual holiday giveaway, said Chris Screws, the youth pastor.

The theme of this year's event was "Do Good With God," a campaign designed to counter a national atheist movement known as "Doing Good Without God."

Screws said $35,000 in church money was used to purchase the supplies. Several sponsors also helped, including Second Harvest Food Bank, which donated 10 tons of food.

Screws said church members realized that being able to bring joy into the lives of people in distress could help make their holidays a little brighter.

"A lot of these families are just making ends meet so the only toys or groceries they receive at this time of year is the little we can hand out," Screws said.

A VISIT TO HILLTOP

One spot visited Saturday afternoon was the Hilltop Village Apartments, a federally subsidized 200-unit complex where poverty and violence are common.

Many people who live in the complex off West 45th Street are on welfare. As for violence, six people have been slain at Hilltop, including one in a police shooting, since 2006.

Dozens of families were treated to music, face painting and other activities. At Screws' behest, the crowd of more than 200 people collectively shouted out, "Happy Birthday, Jesus."

Parents said they were thankful to have something to give their children for the holiday.

"People still care," said Marie Gardner, 24, who has two young children. "It's really Christmas."

DeToya Curtis, a 21-year-old mother of two, was impressed by the church's generosity. …

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