From James 1:27 (NIV):
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
The folks at GLOW have been trying to make Christmas a little brighter for some Effingham County children.
GLOW — God Loves Widows and Orphans — held the last of its Christmas parties Friday afternoon. Last year for the “Santa’s Workshop” at GLOW’s facility in front of the Grace Community Church on Goshen Road, there were 300 invitations sent out to children in need — 298 came. This year, nearly 500 children made their way to the Santa’s Workshop, according to Wendy Turner, president of GLOW.
Twenty-two churches have taken part in Santa’s Workshops this year, as kids line up to meet Santa and also do a little Christmas shopping of their own.
Turner got the idea for GLOW after watching her husband’s group, God’s Apostles Providing, which builds wheelchair ramps for families in need. Originally, GLOW’s mission was to help foster children.
“Sometimes, the Lord has other plans, and we’ve really grown,” she said. “There’s a lot of people out there hurting who fall through the cracks. My wish is to give children what they want. In a sense, we’re able to do that. What a blessing — I don’t think there’s anything greater than that.”
The first group through were the kids who take part in GLOW’s book club throughout the year, approximately 125 kids. The children earn points through the book club and those points are translated into “dollars,” as they pick up GLOW currency with James 1:27, the Bible verse that is the group’s motto.
“Nothing is handed out,” Turner said. “We want to be a hand up and not a handout.”
But even as the children go through the different rooms — the rooms have items at difference prices for the kids to go buy — Turner and her staff and volunteers are often touched by what they see. Kids will go through the items, looking to buy something for their siblings or their parents.
“We have to remind them to get something for themselves,” Turner said.
Said Jackie Burke, one of Turner’s volunteers: “It’s been very rewarding to see all the children. We get them all the way from teenagers to little babies. Some will come in, and I’ll ask them, ‘Do you want something?’ Then you’ll get the little kid who doesn’t want anything for themselves.”
Siblings will go into GLOW’s store together, and that means those who want to surprise their other sibling have to go to greater lengths.
“They’ll have the helpers hide the gifts until the end,” said Turner, when the gifts are wrapped so the children can present them to their intended recipient.
Turner also wonders who would be so cruel to steal approximately 650 toys that had been gathered to dispense to the children. It’s not the price tag value of the toys that concerned Turner.
“It’s the love what went into it,” she said. “It’s what went behind it.”
With their Christmas rush over, what Turner needs next time is not just more toys — a Girl Scout troop Turner met at Walmart also generously donated toys — but volunteers to help.
“I want the community to rise up and come alongside so that no child in Effingham County has to go without,” she said.
To help, call Turner at 663-5806.