The line of families began forming outside of the west Charlotte church before sunrise Christmas morning.
Inside of the New Outreach Christian Center, bags and boxes of toys, clothes and other items were stacked inside of the sanctuary to be given to those who would soon enter.
In another room, volunteers pulled together various items for breakfast to offer to the families.
A little before 7 a.m., the doors of the church opened. And one by one, mothers, fathers and grandparents filled the pews until the room was nearly full. Those attending waited for the gifts and meals that would soon be distributed.
The early morning service and toy giveaway has been a longstanding Christmas tradition for the New Outreach and its pastor, the Rev. Brenda Stevenson.
For many in the room, the service allowed them to get presents for their children that they might not otherwise.
Among those at the church Tuesday was Angela Hubbard. Shes been out of work since September and thought shed finally found a job this month. But the day before she was to start, she got an email saying the training classes she needed were filled.
The news was devastating, Hubbard said, particularly because she hoped she would have earned money to get presents for her two children and three grandchildren.
I thought that I wouldnt be able to get them anything, she said.
But on Tuesday, volunteers handed Hubbard five bags of gifts, one for each child. Every bag that was handed out that day included a mix of toys such as Legos, puzzles and trucks based on a childs age and gender.
Hubbard said she expected the children would be surprised. Itll be real good because there are no presents under the tree, she said.
The presents that are handed out are donated each year by a variety of places, including Toys for Tots and St. Gabriel Catholic Church. Stevenson told the crowd that St. Gabriel donated more than $30,000 worth of items it collected.
Families could begin signing up for the Christmas giveaway after Labor Day, with some still putting in applications in the past few days. Still, Stevenson didnt want to turn families away and some were able to come to the church even if they hadnt signed up in advance.
We dont want to keep these toys, Stevenson told a volunteer earlier in the morning. They need to go to a home.
Stevenson called Tuesdays giveaway another Christmas miracle. Everyones needs were met.
And, she said she was grateful to be able to help out again this year. Stevenson, whose left leg was amputated in 2010, was hospitalized for a week after Thanksgiving and then given an in-home nurse to help her continue to mend. Just two weeks ago, she says her doctors gave her clearance to move around more.
Meanwhile, other volunteers helped to ensure the churchs ongoing outreach efforts, including the Christmas giveaway, continued.
Jennifer Gary was another parent who came by the church Tuesday, looking for gifts for her two sons, who are 8 and 17.
Gary said she was looking for help this year, in part, because her income had decreased. Also, this is the first Christmas without her mother, who passed last spring.
Gary has participated in some of New Outreachs other projects and heard of the Christmas giveaway. On Tuesday, she caught two buses to travel from her home in east Charlotte to the church on Gossett Avenue.
Toward the end of two-hour service, volunteers handed out blue tickets to those in the crowd to give away a few more presents.
Garys number was called and around the pulpit was a bike. Her 8-year-old son, RaSheed, has wanted one for a while.
Hes going to love it, she said. She called Stevenson and the churchs efforts a blessing.
Bethea: 704-358-6013. On Twitter: @AprilBethea
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