Providing gifts to children in need

Patty Makita knows she shouldn't have been concerned when 70 names were still on the Angel Tree at Williamson's Chapel United Methodist Church before the first worship service Nov. 27.

By the start of the second service that morning, none of the names remained.

"Why was I ever worrying?" said Makita, team leader of the church's annual Angel Tree effort, which on Saturday will provide 3,000 Christmas presents to 500 local children in need. "I know better."

"The church always comes through," she said. "Always. For everything."

That included Tuesday, when dozens of Williamson's Chapel members helped Makita sort and arrange the gifts in a 3,000-square-foot Mooresville warehouse. Local businesswoman Cecile Ebert has donated the space for the past three years.

Even more members of the church were expected to help wrap the gifts on Saturday. "We will fill every square inch with presents," Makita said.

In October, the church also collected $10,000 in cash from its members to pay for meals and extra presents for the Angel Tree program.

Families who pick up the presents at the warehouse on Saturday also will receive a meal to take home that includes a canned ham and four or five canned vegetables. Food Lion sells the items at a discount to the program.

An extra 75 meals will go to children and families identified by guidance counselors at Mooresville High School and N.F. Woods Advanced Technology and Arts Center in Mooresville.

Church members, meanwhile, will deliver another 75 presents to families in Rodanthe on the Outer Banks who lost their homes and possessions in Hurricane Irene in late August. A missions team from Williamson's Chapel went to that area after the storm.

Williamson's Chapel members also will give families gift cards for shopping at local retailers there.

The church's Angel Tree program is at least 15 years old. For the past seven years, Mooresville/Lake Norman Christian Mission has provided the names. Children at Williamson's Chapel decorate gift bags and write Christmas messages on cards accompanying the gifts.

Providing the presents "shows people we care about them," Makita said.

"This is our way to share Christ's love with people who need hope in our world," said the Rev. Andrea Smith, pastor of Williamson's Chapel's west campus at Lake Norman High School and also the church's missions pastor.

Janet Brown was among the dozens of Williamson's Chapel members helping inventory and sort gifts Tuesday. She also volunteers at Mooresville/Lake Norman Christian Mission and sees the families who need the community's help.

"I want them to wake up on Christmas morning and have a good Christmas, that it will be a happy day, not a letdown day," she said.