By KATHRYN ACREE
At Christmas Oak Mountain Missions connects area residents with their neighbors in need.
Longtime volunteer Mike Collins adds a special touch to the Christmas season by dressing up like Santa. He starts growing his beard in the fall for the full effect.
“I’ll be dressed up and help load items into the client’s cars when they pull around to the warehouse,” said Collins. “You should see the look on some of the kids faces. It means a lot to me.”
Preparations for the holiday season come early at Oak Mountain Missions Ministries, a non-profit organization located off Highway 31 in Pelham. It is their mission to demonstrate the love of Christ by providing food, clothing, furniture and financial assistance to those in need in Shelby County and the greater Birmingham area.
“Our Christmas ministry connects these clients directly to those who want to help such as churches, clubs, businesses, even individuals,” Stokes said. “Area churches who have angel trees will take some of the names for their trees. The families list items needed from clothing to food and toys.”
By early October, 115 Shelby County families and 40 seniors had filled out forms listing wants and needs for Christmas. An overflow list is maintained and will have approximately 200 names of families in need.
The mission’s clients are asked to list three wants and three needs, but senior citizens often have to be persuaded to actually list “wants.” They only focus on the basics, not the frivolity of things unneeded.
“We tell them it’s OK to put a few things down,” said volunteer Alison Stokes, who helps coordinate the holiday ministry. “Families will list specific items they’d love to have as gifts, especially for their children. Seniors need assurance that asking for help or for some small, special item isn’t wrong.”
The year-round needs at the mission continue to be greater each year. “We served 103 more families by July 2011 versus July 2010,” said Dianne Cesario, assistant director of the mission. “We were led to be part of the spring tornado relief efforts as well. $2,000 was spent on cleaning supplies that were delivered to the town of Phil Campbell. We served 15 tornado victims directly here at the mission.”
Clients come to the mission by referral only from 21 approved agencies, including Aletheia House, Brother Bryan Rescue Mission, Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Lovelady Center. A network of churches supply the mission with food, toiletries, diapers, clothing, household items and of course, financial support, and they are always looking for more donations as needs continue to grow.
The mission’s Christmas ministry continues to seek sponsors for families or seniors who’ve applied for assistance. Individual, church or corporate sponsors are encouraged to contact Oak Mountain Missions Ministries directly.
“We always accept gifts of turkeys or hams as special items we’d like to provide to families on the overflow list or our seniors,” Cesario said. “Gift cards to grocery stores or Walmart are also a need. Ideally cards in the amount of $25 are best.”
For more information at Oak Mountain Missions Ministries, visit www.oakmtnmissions.com or call 685-5757.