Church on Strayer plans Noel ProjectWritten by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
Every year since 1980, the Church on Strayer (and previously as the Cathedral of Praise) has given away Christmas gifts, winter clothes, food and a new bicycle to hundreds of Toledo families.
More than 10,000 families have been helped since the project began 33 years ago, and this year’s event, set for 10 a.m. Dec. 21 at the SeaGate Convention Centre, is once again a labor of love for the Rev. Tony Scott, the church’s senior pastor, who knows how much a new bike means to a child.
“When I was a boy growing up my dad was an alcoholic. There were five children in the family. He didn’t work a lot and I wore hand-me-downs,” Scott said. “I never got a new bicycle. Some Christmases I got just one toy. I had junk. I didn’t have a new bicycle until I was grown and was able to buy one.”
Scott said he wants to help as many underprivileged boys and girls as possible to know the true joy of Christmas, not just with toys and bikes but also with a spiritual understanding of what Christmas is all about.
“We have a service there,” he said of the Noel Project. “We don’t just give away toys. We pray with people to receive Christ. We continue to pray for them and we ask them to attend church somewhere. It doesn’t have to be our church. We are building the kingdom, doing what Jesus said — to love the widows and love the orphans and show the heart of God through giving.”
For the past three years, The Church on Strayer has partnered with the United Way of Greater Toledo, which registers and screens the applicants.
“We partner with The Church on Strayer with the Noel Project because they are doing a great work,” said Michelle Davis, executive director of the United Way’s Community Outreach Services. “Also, because of the work we do with The Salvation Army, we are able to help prevent duplicate assistance to ensure every family gets the assistance they need.”
Scott said between 450 and 500 families will receive Noel Project gifts this year, with each family getting new toys for children 12 and younger; food boxes containing the fixings for a Christmas dinner including a turkey; winter coats, hats and gloves for the children; and one shiny new bicycle per family. He said the demand has continued to grow.
“There’s no question that the need is great this year,” Scott said. “When people talk about the improving economy, I think they forget the fact that millions of Americans are out of work. The government’s unemployment reporting … does not count the people who have stopped looking for work.
“And when you look at people who are what I call the working poor, the men and women who are working every day trying to just pay their bills, these are the people who are hurting,” he said.
Scott pointed out that the Church on Strayer ministers to those in need year-round, not just at Christmas.
“We are actively engaged in the community 52 weeks a year helping families … doing what we can to help,” he said. “In the last three years it has strained our budget.”
He said his church funded the Noel Project on its own until 2010, but now relies on support from others.
“It has grown so large; the budget is over $50,000. And that’s not in our budget. So yes, we depend on donations. WLMB-TV has helped this year. Huntington Bank is collecting toys at 22 branches. Businesses and individuals are chipping in whatever they can.”
Families looking for help from the Noel Project should contact the United Way of Greater Toledo at 419-248-2424. Those who wish to make tax-deductible donations can contact the Church on Strayer at (419) 866-2094 or online at www.theNoelProject.com.
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of Toledo Faith & Values (ToledoFAVS.com), a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality.