She said her father regularly cooked dinner for people who attended the Celebrate Recovery program at First United Methodist Church of Oklahoma City on Friday evenings. Cary McClellin said the weekly program and meal eventually evolved into the Friday Night Live event that brings homeless people to the church for an evening of fellowship and dinner.
Mariah McClellin said she wanted to help the indigent that came for the weekly event, hoping to make their holiday season brighter.
“I always got to have a Christmas, and I love Christmas,” she said. “The homeless don't always have a Christmas (celebration) where they feel they're with family.”
Through “Stockings for the Homeless,” needy individuals and families may visit the church on Christmas Day for dinner and a movie. This year's feature film is the 2011 movie “Arthur Christmas.”
McClellin said the gathering is treated like one big family Christmas celebration. For example, children who come to the dinner are encouraged to help decorate the live Christmas tree. McClellin said parents are encouraged to visit a toy room where they can select and wrap gifts for their children. Families also are allowed to shop among the donated nonperishable food items for food to eat after the holiday is over.
Santa Claus is a regular visitor to the gathering, and he will give each child a small gift. McClellin said children may take pictures with Santa, and the photos will be given to their families as a holiday memento.
The McClellins said the program is only successful through the generosity of the community and numerous volunteers.
Cary McClellin said businesses including Whole Foods, Cupcake Lounge and Sam's Club have been gracious donors. Mariah McClellin said the businesses that agree to place donation boxes in their establishments also are key.
She said she also has been visiting several local churches to discuss ways the congregations can come alongside First United Methodist to make the program a blessing for those in need.
The McClellins said they and other volunteers will be busy preparing for the program now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is just weeks away.
“I stress. She stresses, but it all comes together,” Cary McClellin said, smiling.
“It's a great project.”