The Good SAM Ministry at Central has existed for several decades with the primary aim of providing emergency relief to those who are in difficult situations. Good SAM provides service opportunities through coordination with: Community Kids Closet, Faith In Action, and Cooperative Emergency Outreach (CEO), which assists residents of Fayetteville in emergency situations with rent, utilities, gasoline, and groceries. In the mid-1980s Good Sam launched the Christmas Families Ministry (GSCFM) to provide needy families with food, toiletries, toys, and clothing at Christmas.
The GSCFM is important for several reasons, but the direct and personal impact that it has on people in our community is the reason I have become so passionate about its reach. GSCFM provides for children who attend our local schools and families in our community. These are in fact people who we pass in the grocery store and may sit next to in church. The families we get to serve are screened and referred by the Fayetteville Public School counselors based on need, effort and extenuating circumstances. These are families, who despite their best efforts, have not been able to make ends meet.
The goal is to provide a Christmas for these families that is as fulfilling as the Christmases that many of us provide to our own families. The families submit lists of wants and needs for their families including clothing sizes, specific toys, and other needs. Once the lists are turned over to our GSCFM committee the assignments begin. This is the point in the process where hearts begin to swell and the example set by Jesus begins to shine. The generosity that is demonstrated during this process is always so touching. Being involved in this ministry can range from sponsoring one item to sponsoring entire families. Some gifts are meant to give a hand up to the families as well. They are given tubs of household cleaning supplies, food for Christmas dinner, Bibles, Christmas trees, and any other special items that could improve the functionality of their lives.
In recent years we have had the opportunity to help a grandmother with cancer who is raising her grandchildren but has had to return to work in a local factory; a father who is doing his best to navigate life after the loss of his wife and the mother of his young children; parents who are trying to care for their children with special needs on humbling budgets; a man who was fostering two high school aged boys that were blooming under his care but whom he could barely afford to support. We have even been able to provide a computer to a child who was having to travel back and forth to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, so she could keep up with school work and not have to repeat a grade.
Personally, working on the GSCFM project provides the invaluable gift of perspective. When I was a child this ministry opened my heart to the idea of giving. I would go with my mom and pick out gifts that I would love to have under my own tree. Then, we would go drop it all off for someone else to take home. I cannot express to you the impact that this had on the development of my heart and the awareness that I was given at such an early age. I cannot thank God enough for using my parents to show me His presence. This is a gift that I most definitely hope to pass forward.
As an adult and a parent, this ministry continues to be a gift. This project anchors my Christmas and as I enter this season and become stressed about Christmas events, cards, clothing, gifts and decorations, the GSCFM project pulls me out. Don’t get me wrong! I love all of the things about Christmas, but this ministry offers me a perspective that I need to maintain. This project allows me to enjoy these aspects of Christmas, but stay grounded in the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s so simple, but it’s a lesson I relearn every year. As I am reminded to the plenty that my family has, I am reminded that there is no reason for me to become stressed.
This project is carried by people who make this part of their Christmas tradition every year through the gift of time, money, and action. It’s supported by members of our church and attracts those who are not members and brings them to our campus to drop off items they have committed to these families. I can’t think of a better reason to pull people into our church doors than through the act of coming together and giving to those in need.
If you want to participate in the GSCFM project, please email our Coordinator, Beth Storey Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can participate by: a) Providing a donation by check or cash in the church offering marked, “Good SAM Christmas Families” or select this option on the church website; b) You can volunteer to help sponsor a family; c) You can help with shopping for gifts for the families; or, d) You can even help wrap the gifts on Tuesday, December 15 at 9:00 a.m. in the Wesley Building. Wrapping goes on well into the afternoon.”One of my favorite Christmas Family memories was in the early years of the program. A family asked for bunk beds and it was one of the first times we sought to provide furniture, which was going to be a stretch for our budget. Through God’s grace we found a store that gave us a wonderful deal and even delivered them to the family. I’ll always remember the joy on their faces. Finally, their children had real beds in which to sleep.”
Good S.A.M. Christmas Families Ministry Supporter
More quotes from Good S.A.M. Christmas Families Ministry supporters.
“Our family is blessed every year when we get the opportunity to partner with the GSCFM project. We spend a day as a family picking out gifts and use this time together to stress the importance of giving back to our community, especially at Christmas.”
“It feels good to give back and invest in children and families in our community. Good SAM is a great way to get kids involved in giving back. We involve our kids in the shopping and have had some fruitful discussions about the importance of supporting those in need. It has opened up our kids’ eyes to how blessed they truly are. And it just feels good knowing a child will have a present to open on Christmas morning.”
“Being given the opportunity to put a smile on the precious faces of the recipients and providing them the relief of knowing everything is taken care of for this year is what keeps me passionate about Good SAM.”