Record turnout for FFUMC Christmas Community Day

Nearly 200 volunteers served more than 400 persons in need Sunday, Dec. 3, at First Farragut United Methodist Church for its 10th annual Christmas Community Day.

“We served more families, children and individuals than ever before,” said Laura Derr, who works with the 25-member team that coordinates the project.

Final tallies showed that 115 families were served, which included 238 children and 189 adults.

Guests began lining up long before the 1 p.m. starting time, coming from as far away as Madisonville, Oliver Springs, Maryville, Athens and Corryton.

Once inside, they could dine at Christmas Café, have pictures taken with Santa and select clothing (which included warm winter coats), toys, games and books — all free of charge.

Christmas Community Day has transformed over the years, as organizers worked to not only provide for physical needs, such as food and clothing, but also to make the event more enjoyable.

“We tried things a little differently this year,” Derr said. “We made it more of a ‘mall experience’ rather than starting with the meal.

“[That way] they could pick the direction they wanted to go,” volunteer and church member Earl Nall added. “Not everyone wants to eat. Some [may want to go] straight to the clothes.”

Most did partake of the mouth-watering meals and desserts, however, with more than 500 being served among both guests and volunteers.

Food for the soul also was served, with at least one visitor asking that a member of the church’s prayer volunteer team pray with her.

Derr said volunteer numbers were about the same as last year: final totals indicate 49 volunteers helped set up things Saturday, Dec. 2, and 187 assisted with all Sunday activities.

Church members, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Farragut lacrosse team and others provided the manpower to pull off the event. Several Spanish translators were on site to help serve non-English speaking guests.

“We get tremendous support from the community,” Derr said. “We could not do it without them.”

Christmas Community Day began with an endowment left to the chuch, which was specifically designed for a “hands-on ministry,” Derr explained. Now, that continuing endowment is supplemented with grant funds and other donations.

Nothing went to waste. After the final guests departed, organizers reported 38 coats were delivered to KARM, leftover sandwiches were shared with the Volunteer Ministry Center and 380 pounds (29 bags) of groceries and fruit were sent to the Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County.

Additionally, any remaining toys were delivered to the Morgan Scott Project in Morgan County.

While visitors and guests were the main recipients of Christmas Community Day, many others also were blessed.

Jim O’Brien is in his second year of working with the program. He served as one of the church greeters.

O’Brien said he was pleased to “be one of the first faces [guests] get to see.”

“It’s a good way to start the Christmas season,” he added. “It is what Jesus wants us to do, and I am pleased to play a role in that.”