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Bring the bling: Oklahoma church seeks Christmas decor for Moore tornado victims

St. John's Lutheran Church and School will host CHRISTMAS Cares Moore, an outreach event designed to distribute free Christmas decorations and related items to tornado victims.
by Carla Hinton Published: November 9, 2013

Thanksgiving has yet to arrive, but many families may be thinking ahead to the ways they will deck their halls for Christmas.

The glittering ornaments, the candles and collectibles, the ribbons and wreaths often help usher in the holiday spirit.

But what if the baubles and bling, the tree and the lights, all blew away one fateful day in May?

Beth Groh said the answer to this query is CHRISTmas Cares Moore. That's the name of an outreach event for tornado victims set for Nov. 24 at St. John's Lutheran Church, 1032 NW 12.

Groh, a St. John's member and the event's organizer, said the church has purchased Christmas-related items, Nativity sets, Bibles, Advent candles and devotionals to be distributed to the first 150 families that attend the outreach.

However, she said in addition to these “Christ Cares Bundles,” the church is asking members of the surrounding community to donate new or gently used items to make the outreach a success.

Groh said the church will open its doors Nov. 23 for people to drop off ornaments, tree skirts, lights, stockings, Christmas cards and other assorted Christmas decor.

“We would love to have some handcrafted items and maybe someone wants to be generous and bring a tree,” she said.

Groh said the decoration distribution may seem trivial, but people who lost everything they own in the May tornadoes may be thrilled to receive such items. The donations will be another way the community can show its support.

“We're not pretending to replace the sentimental items that are irreplaceable,” she said.

“It won't fill the void, but it may soothe the wound.”

Groh said she was part of a similar effort held after the May 3, 1999, tornado that pummeled its way through Moore. She said that event was smaller in scale and dubbed “Christmas in July” because it was held a few months after the storms.

Groh said people responded well enough to the event, but organizers learned that “people hadn't flipped that switch” to think about the holidays. She said CHRISTmas Cares Moore is being held closer to the holiday season because tornado victims may now be making Christmas plans.

“It's around Thanksgiving that you might reach that pivotal point where you realize it's coming,” she said of Christmas. “You may think, ‘Oh, I need to get the box of ornaments out of the attic, but wait, I don't have an attic anymore.'”

Gifts of value

Groh said the church doesn't have space to store the donated decor long-term because its affiliated school uses a lot of space at the facility.

She said organizers will accept the items for a few hours Nov. 23, then “we'll work like little elves to get things set up for the next day.”

She said it's important to note that the donors are asked to bring items of good quality — things they would use in their own households — rather than junk.

She said people from an Indianapolis YMCA are bringing donated children's toys and will help with the toy distribution. She said she hopes the community will donate more toys so parents attending the outreach event may select Christmas gifts for the young people in their lives.

‘Thanksgiving and Recovery'

Groh said the Nov. 24 distribution event will include a children's area where youths may participate in various activities. She said clergy leaders and counselors will be on hand for storm survivors who wish to talk or pray with someone.

Groh said tornado victims attending the distribution will be invited to a special worship service with a “Thanksgiving and Recovery” theme with the Rev. Mark Bersche, St. John's senior pastor, as featured speaker.

Bersche said the church became a disaster relief site in the aftermath of the May 20 tornado in Moore, and the congregation has committed to helping with the community's long-term recovery efforts. He said CHRISTmas Cares Moore is another way to offer aid to those who were affected by the storm.

He said he is excited about the outreach “because it shows the community who we are, what we are and what we preach, and that is Christ crucified.”

Groh said along with the service, the items in the “Christ Cares Bundles” — the Bibles, devotionals and Nativity sets — are at the heart of the outreach. She said each item will help convey the message that “there's a gift that comes at Christmas that doesn't come in your attic.”

“We wanted items that shared the Gospel message.”

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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