Holiday GiveAways 1984-1995
15,000 Bags Annually
The Holiday GiveAways as they were modestly called were like an event that had a life all of their own, truly a celebration. They started because of the recognized need of the people served by other programs to give just a little extra food for the holidays. They started in 1984 when the number of families registered by the 8 page form, complete with custom database, held over 4,500 registered families. Of course a flyer had to be sent to each household. And the buzz got started. People kept calling and calling about the first Thanksgiving GiveAway.
Pastor Paul decided to prepare as many bags as the church basement could hold. He guessed about 5,000. He wanted to make sure we didn't run out of bags and disappoint the people. After church services the members would come downstairs and start opening up bags and lining them up. They had to be lined up a special way so that you could put the grocery items in them one at a time. Hours went by and still more bags were being opened. Finally, all the bags were lined up. Then everyone left.
Some stayed; you will find some of those in the pictures throughout the site. One person asked, 'Pastor Paul how are we going to fill up all of these bags?' This was a very legitimate question looking at thousands of empty bags. He said, 'One item at a time and one bag at a time, let's just get started'. He later said, 'Just opening the bag was the first and biggest step of faith.'
Did the people show up? Yes they did, thousands, shown above. They came in one door got their bags, given by ready volunteers, and went out the other door, and away they went with food for the holidays. Oh sure a few bumps in the road existed along the way, like having a designated line, or who would help the disabled senior with a cane, not able to carry his food up the stairs. Or maybe the question a volunteer asked unexpectedly, 'Should I give a bag of groceries to the four year old with her Mother?' Thinking on your feet was important, at the time cameras were glaring and the the Mother with her daughter looked puzzled. Then Pastor Paul would say, 'Give the groceries to Mom and here is something for her helper', which would be a treat of some kind. Everyone was happy!
Later we gave little toys or candy to the children who came with their parents. We changed that because it was a big distraction for the adults who wanted to take it home for their children. Little details like that had to be worked out and they were worked out. The Holiday GiveAways got bigger and better each year. The media was invited to take part and they generously spent hours filming the event. It was all very positive. People were excited to receive the food and news journalists interviewed them asking about their needs. A very good exchange took place and Pastor Paul's Mission kept distributing food.
People were happy and excited anticipating what we had for them this time. We always seemed to top the last time until a Turkey in every bag was a must. Ten years later the end of the line met the beginning of the line around a city block. Not just any city block, it was a North Side city block. People would come from throughout Minnesota to take part in this great event, this great celebration.