Church to give away toys, food, gifts

Published 8:28 am Friday, December 3, 2010

Volunteer William Barnes sorts a box full of cereal at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center during last year’s Christmas giveaway as residents wait in line in the background. -- Nicholas Langhorne | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—The Rev. Dr. Calvin Durham remembers driving through Franklin to bury his mother-in-law.

As he looked around, he said he saw a community in need. That was three years ago, before International Paper closed its Franklin mill, eliminating 1,100 jobs.

Durham vowed to do what he could, and for a third year in a row, his Norfolk church will give away new toys, household and gift items, and food for Christmas. Between 10 and 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, they will be at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center at 683 Oak St., Franklin, with enough stuff for 500 people.

“The one thing I say is if the church is not helping the community, then the church is not being a church,” said Durham, pastor of New Hope Church of God in Christ. “That’s what I stand behind. That’s what I represent.”

Frank Davis, director of Franklin Parks and Recreation and facilitator of the church’s annual visit, appreciates the effort by New Hope’s 500-member congregation.

“I think it’s just wonderful for a church in Norfolk to come to Franklin,” Davis said. “It touches my heart.”

Durham said his church receives a lot of household items, toys, clothing and food — too much for just his congregation.

“I wanted to share not only with our community, but communities at large,” he said. “The Lord gave me Franklin to be that community. Last year, we brought two U-Haul trucks full, and we didn’t bring anything back.”

Items come from merchants who are familiar with New Hope’s ministries, including a community center, homeless shelter, soup kitchen and clothing closet.

Recipients are not required to meet income guidelines.

“Despite what they are going through, we want to offer some type of assistance so they can be comfortable at Christmas,” Durham said. “So every child will receive something. So every parent will have the option to see Christmas in the eyes of their children.”