With the annual Christmas gathering only days away, a Woodbridge, Virginia, non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating suffering among the poor and homeless, heard discouraging news: most of the toys they needed as gifts had fallen through. The odds to overcome the challenge seemed insurmountable.
“We turned to prayer, faith in God, and our friends,” said Rose Powers, executive director of StreetLight Community Outreach Ministries.
On Dec. 2, Tara Hatch, Primary president of the Lake Ridge 2nd Ward, Woodbridge Virginia Stake, spoke to Powers while at the StreetLight food pantry as part of her son’s Eagle Scout Project. She learned that there would only be a fraction of toys for the children this year.
Hatch approached Bishop John Boden, who also happened to be at StreetLight that day as part of the project to stock the food pantry. He contacted Woodbridge Virginia Stake President Clark Price explaining the problem, indicating that his ward would be doing its best to meet the need.
“I felt prompted to try and expand the initiative beyond our ward, and knew immediately it was a wonderful service opportunity to assist children in need,” Bishop Boden said.
President Price enthusiastically endorsed the activity and moved immediately to mobilize the stake to donate new toys in the spirit of the Church's Light the World initiative. The stake employed social media to get the word out. The next day, congregation leaders from across the stake made announcements to their members that an effort would be made to gather new toys and wrap them by Monday at the stake center.
Monday arrived. The gathering of donations and wrapping started modestly, if not sparsely. More members arrived and the numbers swelled. They brought quality toys: balls, watches, games, stuffed animals and more. Soon the main hall filled with hundreds of members wrapping gifts as Christmas music played. Approximately 870 new toys were donated and wrapped in roughly 48 hours, then delivered well before the Christmas gathering.
“It was one of the most satisfying acts of service I've been involved in and it was so personally moving,” Hatch said.
When the children received the wrapped gifts on Thursday, Dec. 6, their faces beamed. Powers said, “God provides abundantly, and this is a testament to that scripture.” She added, “I am deeply grateful on behalf of these children and their families for how our partners and members of [the Church] responded in true Christian charity, and that service will give these kids a glimmer of hope at the Christmas season.”
— Ian M. Houston, Woodbridge Virginia Stake public affairs director