Christmas Giving and Receiving

By Lorraine Thompson

This past Christmas season was full of giving back, being generous and serving those in need. Despite a setback, one parish in the Diocese of St. Augustine still managed to answer to call to holiday service.

Each year parishioners and visitors to St. Anastasia Catholic Church on Anastasia Island participate in a Christmas Giving Tree program where they select cards from a Christmas tree. Each card lists a gift that a child wishes to receive or an item needed by poor families including elderly people and migrant workers. Identities are not included on the cards.

This year was different on the giving end, according to Dr. Brian Schoonover, business administrator and director of community outreach for St. Anastasia.

“Even though Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Augustine closed its office in Crescent City this past summer, the parishioners of St. Anastasia Catholic Church did not cease to give the presents that we usually do. In fact, the presents we collected for the migrant workers well-exceeded any previous year‘s collection,” Schoonover noted.

“The generosity of our parishioners made up for the lack of support services in Crescent City,” he noted.

Catholic Charities of St. Augustine received 11 bikes, $1,645 in gift cards for elderly and high school youth, and over 200 gifts for children. The migrant workers of Crescent city received presents for 147 children across 60 families. St. Augustine Youth Services (SAYS) received presents for all 32 boys. Each boy received a new pair of shoes, a shirt, a pair of pants, plus an individual “wish list” gift. St. Johns County School District received gift cards for 55 homeless youth totaling $1,650. In addition to Sister Anne Halpin‘s work with the homeless adults in downtown St. Augustine, over the two weeks preceding Christmas, each homeless person received socks and new gloves when volunteers from the church fed them on Wednesday nights at the corner of Bridge Street in downtown St. Augustine.