Operation Compassion Delivers Christmas to the Mountains

By , January 30, 2002
Volunteer worker serving Christmas dinner to Appalachia families.

Volunteer worker serving Christmas dinner to Appalachia families.

Christmas 2001 was a unique time at the Appalachia Dream Center. Under the direction of Coordinator Michael Hartwell, Appalachia Dream Center provided Christmas to 2,500 families. The Appalachia region of West Virginia has suffered unprecedented poverty in recent years, leaving thousands of families without an opportunity to provide for their own needs. The year of 2001 was particularly cruel to the region. In July, the region faced floods of catastrophic proportions leaving hundreds of families without any personal belongings. Just as the region was beginning to recover, September 11th saw the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The focus of the country changed as donations shifted to those disasters. When the economy began slipping into recession shortly after the attacks, the Appalachia region was once again hit hard. However, throughout the last half of 2001, Appalachia Dream center picked up the slack and met thousands of needs.

Volunteer worker stands among bags of toys and stocking stuffers for the children.

Volunteer worker stands among bags of toys and stocking stuffers for the children.

Christmas was the highlight of a six-month stretch of intense ministry at the Dream Center. Michael Hartwell and his staff worked tirelessly to provide the very best for the families and children within the community. During the week of Christmas, twenty-five volunteers prepared and cooked a traditional Christmas meal consisting of turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, dessert and drinks for over 2,500 families. They invited elderly couples, widows and widowers, single parent families, families that have been without employment because of layoffs and families still trying to recover from the ravages of the flooding. Of course, children of all ages were there as well. Michael Hartwell reported, “Everyone had such a wonderful time. Some of the families pitched in and helped serve and clean up. Every family was thrilled to be at the Dream Center for Christmas dinner.”

Hundreds of people stand in line waiting to be served Christmas dinner at the Appalachia Dream Center.

Hundreds of people stand in line waiting to be served Christmas dinner at the Appalachia Dream Center.

The Christmas spirit was evident everywhere. While the families were waiting in line to be served dinner, spontaneous singing broke out. Christmas carols could be heard, not only from inside the Dream Center but by those outside standing in the parking lot. Everyone was enjoying the fellowship and fun of hundreds of families coming together and sharing love and peace on earth. For a few hours, the families of Appalachia could forget about all the trouble and problems facing them and enjoy themselves and one another.

Following the dinner, everyone received gifts for Christmas. The senior adults received games and puzzles. The children received new toys of all kinds and stocking stuffers. Everyone received something including candy and snacks. Without exception, everyone was glowing and thrilled with the gift they unwrapped at the Dream Center. In fact, one seven-year old girl received a brand new doll for the first time in her life. In this day of affluence, it is hard to imagine a little girl not having a new doll. Yet, Michael Hartwell and his corps of volunteers had the pleasure of providing a dream come true.

There was an elderly gentleman that was given a clue game and puzzle. He remarked how he had not had a puzzle since he was a little boy running barefoot in the mountains of West Virginia. The stories go on and on of how the Dream Center has fulfilled the needs of the people they serve. Many families live in remote areas only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles or on foot. Yet, they come to the Appalachia Dream Center because each family knows there is someone that cares for them personally. Not only do families receive Christmas dinner and gifts and flood relief and building and remodeling supplies but each family also receives unconditional love and acceptance. The kind of love and acceptance that Jesus Christ, Himself, exhibited to the multitudes that came to hear Him in the mountains near Jerusalem.

Christmas 2001 was truly unique in Appalachia! Two thousand five hundred meals were served and over five thousand toys and stocking stuffers, candy and snacks were given to the most needy of families in West Virginia.

Tim Burdashaw
Communications Coordinator

Anyone interested in financially supporting or volunteering for the many ministry opportunities of Operation Compassion should write or call:

Operation Compassion
David Lorency
– President
114 Stuart Road, NE
Suite 370
Cleveland, TN 37312
Office: 423-728-3932
Fax: 423-596-4200

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