For many Long Island congregations, the holidays are a giving time. This week’s clergy discuss efforts to provide holiday meals to the food insecure, toys to children in disadvantaged families and a message of hope to all experiencing hard times during the Christmas season.

The Rev. Jaye Brooks

Developmental minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock is committed to service and support within our local community. Each Sunday we take a special collection to support a local group that helps others.

For the holiday season, donations help families in need enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving through two local partner organizations: the North Shore Soup Kitchen and the AIDS Center of Queens County. We use our members’ contributions to buy turkeys that we deliver to these two groups. This year, we dropped off 200 turkeys for Thanksgiving meals. We’ll be donating more birds for the December holidays.

We also work with the AIDS Center of Queens County to collect new toys for children in disadvantaged families; we make a "tree" with paper mittens, each one describing the age of a child and their interests or needs. Members take a mitten to guide their gift-buying and then return with gifts for that child.

We know that times are especially hard right now for families living in poverty. Delivering food and a little happiness lets them know that their neighbors care.

The Rev. Lisa M. Williams

Pastor, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church-Setauket

The mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the social, spiritual and physical development of all people. At Bethel AME Church-Setauket, we take that mission seriously.

The Mary Eato Missionary Society, headed by member Lisa Roller, is in charge of our outreach ministry to serve all people. We were able to distribute Thanksgiving baskets with everything needed to feed a family of five: dry goods and a gift certificate to purchase meat and fresh produce.

Our goal is to also provide a holiday meal for the Christmas season for both families and individuals, including residents of homeless shelters. We will be incorporating a Christmas stocking of essential items, such as toiletries, socks and gloves, that will be handed out to the residents of a local homeless shelter.

Finally, at Bethel Setauket we realize that the holiday season, while a special time for most, can be difficult for others who may feel alone or forgotten. The best gift that we can offer is kindness, love and friendship. We want to do what we can to ensure that people know they are loved and not alone, and that there is always hope for a better tomorrow.

The Rev. James Eastland

Pastor, Reformed Church of Locust Valley

Each November, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we find our hearts filled with the gratitude of the season. As Christians, we are called to acknowledge the ways we have been blessed, and with grateful hearts, turn that gratefulness outward in acts of generosity. St. Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica, "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else." (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

One way to increase this love is by giving to others as we begin the Advent season, awaiting Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Our congregation begins our Advent season with a food drive. With the help of the community, the food collected is donated to North Shore Soup Kitchen in Glen Cove where some of our members volunteer.

We also collect Christmas gifts for children of the families who are guests of the soup kitchen. The North Babylon Food Pantry, a ministry of our sister congregation, St. Paul’s Reformed Church, is another program we support. We collect money throughout the year to help cover the costs of the pantry. This is the primary place for food-insecure people to receive food in the North Babylon area.

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