A Christmas to remember: Local church expands toy giveaway with free festival

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 2021

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LAPLACE — With insurance claims and home repairs taking precedence over family traditions this Christmas season, Apostle Renita Graber knew it would take something big to reinspire joy in the hearts of those impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Victorious Life Family Worship Center was decked out in dazzling lights Monday evening during the first “Christmas to Remember” toy giveaway and festival. Organized with support from Toys for Tots and numerous community donors, the free event included a large-scale toy distribution, carnival-style rides, Christmas music, food, unlimited hot cocoa and plenty of sweet treats.

“We are always a church that responds to the needs of the community. Last year, we gave away 1,000 toys. That was good, but the need is more than giving away toys,” Graber said. “Because this area had such great devastation, people are focused on getting back into their homes. We wanted to stand in the gap and fill it with hope. Since families’ focus is not on Christmas and toys, we want to supply it for them. In spite of the devastation, we wanted to spread cheer and spread love to the people.”

In addition to local businesses and individual donors, members of the church stepped up financially to make the festival a success.

Leona Stephens has been a member of Victorious Life Family Worship Center since its inception. She believes it is important for the church to step up and be a beacon of hope, regardless of what situations are impacting the community.
“Before the church even got started, my kids were involved in a youth group. Now they’re grown, and two of them have their own businesses, so we want to give back. We want to do what we were instructed to do here on Earth: give, love, and make sure everybody is good at this time of year,” Stephens said. “People are losing their homes and losing their lives. Once we display the love of Christ, then people can start doing the same thing. It’s a domino effect. It’s a great atmosphere around here every Sunday, regardless of if it’s Christmastime. We do a lot of things for the community, and it’s important to us to keep the community close-knit, where everyone is looking out for each other.”

Church member Tawanda Thomas added that it was important to keep this event free so everyone in the community had access to Christmas cheer.

“Oftentimes at a festival, parents will have to tell their children, ‘You don’t need that,’ because they can’t afford it. We wanted to take that burden away. At this festival, you don’t need money to buy things. People are here with four or five kids. We want them to enjoy it,” Thomas said.

She added that wrapping the church in Christmas lights was a symbolic reminder that Jesus asked the church to be the light of the world. Thomas was pleased to see many new faces around the church during the Christmas festival.

Contributing sponsors included: IGT Electric, Toys for Tots, Thrivent Financial, Marathon Petroleum, Community of Believers, Winston & Renita Graber, Charles & Cynthia Edwards, Vanoy B. Allen, Octavia Brown, Empowering for Life Prophetic Ministry, Little Starr’s Center, Clayton & Armant Family, Law Firm of Eric Carter Sr., Tawanda Coleman Thomas ESQ, The Fab, Unique Wax, Bertha Batiste, Rena J. Artistry, Kreative Hands, Karisma Apparel, 7 B’s Trucking LLC, House of Elegance Fashion Collection, Dr. Wonesetta Collins, Serenity’s Grace Wicks, N Route Enterprise LLC, Quinn’s Treats & Sweets and Too Clean 4 U Janitorial Services.