The Ashland Beacon
Most people get overly excited for the holiday season. They shop, wrap gifts, bake cookies, and eagerly plan for the arrival of Santa Claus. For some though, the holidays are very stressful. Trying to stretch meager resources to purchase extra food for a Christmas dinner and to buy gifts for their children from both themselves and from Jolly Old Saint Nicholas is an impossible feat. For the second year in a row, the House of Grace has stepped in to help with their [now] annual event that they call The Christmas Gift.
On December 21, the House of Grace opened up their doors to give away bicycles to children in the community. This is the second year for the event. Kathy Mejia, wife of pastor Geraldo Mejia, says that last year, the House of Grace was able to give away more than 100 bicycles to families. This year, they were able to give away more than 200 bicycles, as well as some toys that had been donated.
The children that attend House of Grace church were able to pre-register for the bicycle giveaway after the church service on December 15. Many of the children who attend church received bicycles last year. This year, they opted to receive toys instead. More than 100 children were pre-registered for the giveaway, but there were still more than 100 bicycles to give away the day of the event.
The church did have the stipulation that the child did need to be present in order to receive the gift of a bicycle. The giveaway began at 1 p.m. Families started lining up at 11 a.m. and people just kept coming. Mejia made the statement that “the lines are long and I just hope that we are able to fulfill the need.”
The church was able to get the donations for the giveaway from private donors throughout the community. They were also able to get help from within the community to transport the bicycles to the church. Pawn Shop Express sent their truck to Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up bicycles and McGuire’s used one of their flatbed tow trucks to tie down a load of bicycles for transport to the church.
Families were invited into the church a few at a time. When the families came in, they were greeted by Santa Claus so the children could have their pictures made. They then registered each child to receive a bicycle. They asked for names, age, and height so that they could try to match a bicycle with each child. Each family was given a card with the number that had been assigned to their children. The numbers on the card would match the numbers on the bicycles.
The bicycles varied in size from tiny bikes with training wheels for toddlers all the way to adult-sized bikes for teenagers. Mejia said that one thing that they noticed last year was that some of the local teenagers have jobs and they want bicycles to “use as transportation to both school and work.”
The families then went into the sanctuary where they were served what House of Grace referred to as “an Italian feast.” There were pans of spaghetti, lasagna, and macaroni and cheese served with different types of garlic bread, twists, sticks and plain rolls. There were also fruit kabobs, cookies, pastries, and a wide selection of cakes and pies. Mejia stated that they fed about 500 people during the giveaway last year and fed more than 500 this year.
House of Grace members were on hand to serve food and help out in other ways. The Boyd County football team was there to help serve food. They were also on hand to help carry plates or hold babies for single parents who were struggling to get themselves and their children through the line with their food.
While waiting, the children were able to pretend that they were in a snow globe and play inflatable games. They were also able to ride laps around a small ring on the rechargeable animals. The entertainment was brought in by Inflation Station.
At 2:30 p.m., the House of Grace performed “The Christmas Story.” Then came the part that all of the children were eagerly waiting for. The church members began to announce the numbers of the children ten at a time to come up and get their bicycles and their toys. The children from the church came up first, followed by the children who had stood in line to receive a two-wheeled gift.
Although the church did have to cut off bicycle registration before the line was completely gone, they did invite everyone into the sanctuary to eat lunch. The church plans to continue the yearly tradition of the bicycle giveaway to the best of their ability. “I can’t imagine Christmas without doing this. This is Christmas to me,” Mejia shared.