Children's hopes, dreams come true at annual AUM Christmas Party
A total of 46 bicycles, helmets and locks were waiting for the youngsters at the conclusion of the non-profit event
Dozens of brand new children’s bicycles lined the rear of the sanctuary at Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church Sunday morning, along with brand new safety helmets and bicycle locks.
And that afternoon, Christmas came three weeks early for 46 children and their 18 families, thanks in large part to Arlington Urban Ministries.
For the fifth consecutive year, Good Shepherd played host to the Arlington Urban Ministries (AUM) Children’s Christmas Party. It’s an event that AUM Executive Director Jennifer Johnston Weber admits is a highlight of the non-profit organization’s calendar year.
“It is absolutely one of our highlight events, to be able to provide just the Christmas cheer to each of the children and their families that we have assisted during this year,” Weber said. “So for them, it’s about coming here, spending time with their families, doing the arts and crafts and the games, getting a photograph and spending time with Santa, and then our big surprise at the end, when they receive their bicycle.”
According to Weber and Don Henderson, a member of the AUM Board of Directors, for the first time in the 15-year history of the Christmas Party, each child will receive one of the bicycles and the equipment that goes with it.
In the past, each child that was registered was signed up for a drawing, and if their name was drawn, they received one of the bicycles. Henderson said this year the number of families was limited to 18 that registered for the party, and each child was assured of taking home one of the bikes.
Forty of the bicycles were provided for by the Lamplighters Sunday School class at Arlington First United Methodist Church, which has bought the bicycles every year for the Christmas party. AUM afforded the remaining six.
“It’s so important for the parents, our clients, to know that their kids are going to get something,” Henderson said. “They get to pick out some toys and do some shopping. It’s really special for the clients, and we appreciate Good Shepherd saying ‘You guys can use our facility any way you want to.’ That’s a big deal for us.”
A new feature for the party this year was giving the children an opportunity to do some Christmas ‘shopping’ for their parents at a Pop-Up Shop, a table of items selected from the inventory at Nu2U, AUM’s resale store located in Pantego.
Picture frames, books and ties were among the items the children could choose from. The gifts selected were to be specially wrapped and given back to the children to give to their parents on Christmas Day.
The Christmas party is an example of the long-standing relationship that AUM has had with the United Methodist Churches in Arlington. Most of the volunteers that work the monthly AUM/Tarrant Area Food Bank Food Pantries come from Trinity, St. Stephen’s, Good Shepherd, Epworth and New World United Methodist Churches in the city.
Rev. Molly Simpson-Hayes, the new minister at Good Shepherd, was ecstatic to have the opportunity to maintain the relationship with AUM and offer the church’s facilities for the party.
“For us at Church of the Good Shepherd, it helps us to live in the true Christmas spirit, where we can share the light of Christ with our neighbors,” Rev. Hayes said. “I am so proud of a church that welcomes its community and supports ministries like AUM. I couldn’t wait to be a part of it.”
Rev. Hayes said AUM is one of the best organizations in Arlington in helping needy communities within the city, and admitted it is an honor to be a part of a movement that assists AUM with events like the Christmas party and food pantry.
Weber readily admits that a project the size of the AUM Children’s Christmas Party would be nearly impossible without the assistance from the United Methodist Church.
“We couldn’t do most of our work without our church partners,” Weber said. “One of our volunteers, Barbara Hauschild, was the original organizer of the Christmas party and chaired it for several years at Aldersgate United Methodist Church. We are so thankful that Good Shepherd has opened the doors of its church and allowed us to do this.”
Like Rev. Hayes, two sisters – Ines Roach and Suzy Salomon – were also anxious to begin helping out AUM with the Christmas Party. After observing the festivities a year ago, they approached Weber and offered their assistance with this year’s party.
Roach oversaw the arts and crafts for the children, while Salomon organized games for the youngsters to participate in prior to the awarding of the bicycles.
“Even just watching last year was special to us,” Roach said. “Just watching the kids with their bikes brought tears to my eyes. It’s so special because without a party like this, these families might not get anything for Christmas. And we know that the children and their families are appreciative of everything they [AUM] do for them.”
Salomon said she loves the spirit that the party brings out and how everyone can come together and help those in the most need.
She organized three games for the children – a Pin the Nose on Rudolph activity, a Snowball Race with styrofoam snowballs, and a Christmas Bingo game.
“I wanted to do something different to let the kids just be kids,” Salomon said.
If the true spirit of Christmas is in the giving back, then the generosity and benevolence of Arlington Urban Ministries and Good Shepherd are a true reflection of the words attributed to Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:40.
“….Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
This story is part of the Arlington Voice's 25 Days of Good News series