The bulletin board on the front of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 2233 Linn St., in the city's Newberry section reads "Sharing God's love."
The congregation uses the phrase as a driving force behind all of its ministries, including its Operation Christmas Gift.
For the congregation, there is no better time of year to continue sharing God's love than Christmas, a time to celebrate the arrival of the ultimate example of God's love, especially with those who need it the most.
KRISTEN NUSS/ Sun-Gazette
Volunteers at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 2233 Linn St., made chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal cookies last weekend to package and give to needy families for Christmas. Here, Paul Sober places chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven on a paper bag to cool.
Through the outreach ministry, members of the church help make Christmas possible for many area families.
"It was the brainstorm of a member of the church who wanted to find a way to help the needy at Christmastime through the church," Marilyn Satterfield, coordinator of the ministry, said. "It grew from there, and we pulled a team together."
Now in its third year, Satterfield said, the program is helping more people than ever before.
"It's grown since the first year when we had 25 families. This year we have 34 families and almost 60 kids," she said. "It all started with a few phone calls to local agencies and church members, and it's grown from there."
This year the families, who are referred to the church through Shepherd of the Street and Family Promise, will receive all of the fixings for a Christmas dinner, fuel assistance, gifts for the children and homemade treats made by members of the congregation during a few recent baking sessions at the church.
The church also will bring gift boxes to the residents at Willow View Personal Care Home on Emery Street, as well as shut-ins from the church.
Satterfield said the hours of dedication from volunteers who shop, wrap and bake the goodies culminates in a Christmas party to gather all of the families together with the volunteers to meet one another. Together everyone sings Christmas carols and takes pictures with Santa, she said.
"We give some children a Christmas they might not have had otherwise," Satterfield said. "It's been a great way to get our members involved in an outreach ministry in the community."
The church, which also participates as a host church for the countywide Family Promise program, strives to share God's love all year long, but for those involved in Operation Christmas Gift, Christmas seemed like an appropriate time to serve the needy in the community.
"We felt there was no better time than Christmas to help others," Satterfield said. "Every child deserves a nice Christmas."