Head start to the holidays

Local church sparks July Christmas spirit

by Morgan Smith

Shay and Logan Soderlund, kids at South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church, work the church’s Christmas in July donation booth, Sunday, July 8, encouraging church members and community members alike to donate for The Salvation Army cause. Photo courtesy of Sue Slezycki

While temperatures soar into the 100s, one church is gearing up for winter. You’ll see nothing but red stockings hanging from the trees on Sundays in front of South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church, where this year, they hope Christmas will come in July.

The stockings are part of the church’s Christmas in July event to benefit children of the Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte. The church has been collecting toys, jewelry, gloves and gifts for the past seven years for the ministry, last year collecting enough gifts to fill 374 stockings, their largest collection so far.

But this year, Sue Slezycki, the benefits program coordinator at the church, has set a goal of 500 stockings and the church is taking new measures to make sure they reach that goal.

“Five hundred is my goal, but I wouldn’t complain at all if we did more. They do Christmas in July sales in different stores just to kick up sales,” Slezycki said. “I heard that term and I thought it might be a good way to do this.”

The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte’s stocking program provides Christmas stockings to kids ages 3 to 8 enrolled in the organization’s Angel Tree program. Last year the organization passed out more than 13,000 stockings. Slezycki said she wanted to find a way to raise more donations without burdening families even more during the Christmas season.

“This is the time of year where no one really has their hand out for money,” she said, “but at Christmas, people are buying for everyone and they get strapped for money.”

And with less strain from the Christmas season, Slezycki hopes community members will be more apt to help, as well.

“We would love to get the community involved,” she said. “One of our main goals is to try to include more people in the community that want to help, but just aren’t sure what to do.”

So Slezycki and her fellow church members are asking for help. They are asking the community to donate a variety of new items to the church, or monetary donations to go toward the stocking-stuffer project. Flash cards, small games, small books, jewelry, hair accessories, crayons, pencils, markers, Play-Doh, coloring and activity books, small toys, bubbles, lip balm and small clothing items to prepare kids for the winter months, such as socks, hats and gloves, are all on the list of needs, although winter items may be hard to find these summer months, Slezycki said.

“The issue with the hats and gloves are that we’re going to have to wait,” she said. “We’ll just need monetary donations for those,” adding the church also needs monetary donations for hygiene items such as toothbrushes and toothpastes, things they buy in bulk at discounted prices. “We’ll put some fun stuff in as well, like stuffed animals or matchbox cars for boys or jewelry for little girls.”

The church hopes to get as many supplies as possible through the month of July, but will accept items up to their community outreach day on Nov. 3, where volunteers and families will assemble the stockings to be delivered to the Salvation Army just in time for the Christmas season.

Donations can be dropped off in the chapel building church office, 8601 Bryant Farms Road. Monetary donations can be made through the church’s website, www.smpchome.org/mysmpc or via check made payable to SMPC with stockings in the memo. Checks can be sent to the church. People can contact Sue Slezycki with any questions at outreachsue@gmail.com.

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