Kalamazoo Rethinks Christmas

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Christmas came early to 1500 people in the Kalamazoo area. A local church invited the community to share gifts of warm clothes, warm food and warm feelings with their neighbors in need. Lilla Marigza reports.


(Locator: Kalamazoo, Michigan)

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty level.

Jennifer McClish: “I can’t afford the things I want to be able to for my kids like getting them coats, boots. You have to get all that before winter and with my job getting ready to shut down, it’s really hard out there.”

Volunteer: “Does anyone need a hot coffee?”

More than 1,000 men, women, and children stood in 20-degree weather outside Stockbridge Avenue United Methodist Church hoping for a better Christmas.

Sharon Smith: “I think this is a good thing for people who can’t get their kids stuff and like I need a coat. I’m freezing.”

This is the sixth year this small church has hosted the event.

Sigourney Kopek: “It’s a place where our guests come and have dinner if they don’t have any. There’s a Santa’s workshop up there where the children can get gifts for their mom and toys for themselves.”

Keith Clap Volunteer: “We’re giving out free winter coats, blankets, hats, scarves, gloves.”

Ione Higa, Volunteer: “Last year or the year before a lady walked in in a cotton dress, short-sleeve. That’s it. Freezing. She didn’t have a coat. She didn’t have warm clothes. It was unbelieveable. And I flat out told her she couldn’t leave without a coat. That’s awful.”

Organizers knew this year the needs would be greater. So they put out the word asking folks to rethink what church is about. Three hundred volunteers from all over town pitched in for “A Kalamazoo Christmas.” They served more 1500 neighbors.

Jason Harpole, Volunteer: “We’re re-thinking church. It’s no longer one church trying to make a difference. We’ve tore down those walls and we’ve realized there’s one church and we all need to come together. And when we come together something like this happens. And it’s just amazing.”

Michael Stewart, Volunteer: “During this holiday season I just wanted our community to know that people care about them.”

Corporate sponsors donated food…

(Kid yells: “Gingerbread!”)

Drop boxes collected hundreds of coats…

(Volunteer: “One is a little more dressy.” Woman: “He’s a sports person.”)

And Toys for Tots came through with a thousand toys to make the event a success.

Volunteer with shopper: “You’re gonna have transformers at your house! Merry Christmas.”
“Thank you.”

Child at event: “I want Christmas, not here, but at home and I want a baseball bat. I also want a TV, doesn’t matter what kind. And a couch.”

Gene Clem, Volunteer: “A Kalamazoo Christmas is one of the best things to happen in Kalamazoo in years, and years, and years. It’s a great possibility for people to give back to the community.”

Lynette Gunn: “Happy Holidays. And it’s a great one, starting today.”

Melissa McMillan: “Now we can eat and enjoy and be thankful for Christmas. Thank you God. Thank you Jesus!”


You can learn more about a Kalamazoo Christmas by contacting Stockbridge Avenue United Methodist Church at 269-385-8919. Read more.

For more ideas on how to Rethink Church, visit www.rethinkchurch.org.

Posted: December 22, 2010