RAVENNA, Ohio — A Rootstown church is gifting for good this holiday season by providing more than 1,500 wrapped presents to area children.
Do Something Ministry, which is organized through Community Bible Church on Tallmadge Road, started the program known as Christmas is for Kids in 2016.
Members of the group placed Christmas trees at several area stores and businesses. The trees have ornaments on them suggesting gifts for kids of all ages.
Amid the pandemic, there was an outpouring of community support with people donating new clothes and toys, such as games, balls and dolls.
"The first year we collected about 800 gifts and this year we collected 1,502 gifts, so every year the need gets greater," said Vickie Smith, who runs the program.
The gifts are being delivered to agencies connected with families in need, including Center of Hope, Safer Futures Domestic Violence Center of Portage County, First Glance Youth Center and Children's Advantage Family Center.
Smith became emotional when she talked about the significance of helping folks out during this time of year.
"It just touches my heart that we can help. It's important and there's so many people out there that need the help," she said while fighting back tears.
On Tuesday, Smith and other women belonging to Community Bible Church loaded up several bags filled with presents and drove them to Center of Hope in Ravenna.
The center is a food pantry and hot meal site that serves more than 150 homeless or low-income people daily.
"With the pandemic, some people lost their jobs so it's serving them also," said program manager Lajoyce Harris.
Harris was touched as the gifts were unloaded. Some of them were immediately given to children who came to the center with their parents.
"Totally amazing," Harris said. "It's totally amazing."
Trae Longmire, a single mother from Ravenna, was grateful that her children received presents thanks to the kindness of strangers.
"The poverty level is very high here, and the surrounding communities, so I think it's a great thing and it's really nice that people are giving."
Longmire said her family also pays it forward by volunteering at Center of Hope.
"We pack boxes here. We serve food," she said.
Dozens of other gifts, generated through Christmas is for Kids, will be donated to other local children before December 25.
Smith believes the program captures the holiday spirit and she hopes it spreads.
"I hope that maybe this inspires people to donate to things like this because there are people in need that need these things," Smith said.
Community Bible Church will accept donations of new toys or clothing for children until Christmas Eve. Those wanting to help should call the church at 330-325-9449.