What does it mean to “serve out of love?” This question was answered on Friday, 20 November 2015, when the children of Saint George Orthodox Church School in Buffalo NY came together with their parents and teachers under the guidance of Father Jason Vansuch (parish rector) to learn what it means to help and serve others during this season of the Nativity Fast. In wanting the children to get more involved with the parish outreach ministry, Church School Coordinators (Matushka Katia Vansuch and Natalie Huett) contacted the “Family Help Center,” a local non-profit organization that helps build stronger families by caring for the needs of children and providing support to the entire family.
The Family Help Center has been providing services to families since 1973, focusing on providing children the support they need. Family Help Center is the only 24-hour, 365-day-a-year family crisis intervention and support service in Erie County, New York. It is a multi-service agency providing in-home support services and licensed daycare facility services.
Coming together on the Eve of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple during the Nativity Fast and in preparation for Thanksgiving, the children and adults served the Service of “Little Compline” followed by a Thanksgiving Meal (minus the turkey, since it is a fasting period, so they had fish instead) prepared by the parents. After enjoying the delicious meal and fellowship, Father Jason gave a brief talk on the meaning of Thanksgiving and why it is important to help those who may be less fortunate than we.
Following a brief introduction by Natalie Huett, the children were divided into two groups. The older kids, under the direction of the parents and teachers, got to work on preparing posters listing items that the Family Help Center is in most dire need of and that will therefore be collected on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The younger children worked on making the gift tags which were then hung on the giving tree in the parish fellowship hall. Each tag listed the name, age and Christmas wish of a specific child from the Family Help Center. On the following Sunday, during coffee hour, Matushka Katia gave a brief presentation to our parishioners on the Sunday School outreach project. Parishioners were then encouraged to pick a gift tag from the giving tree and help make one special boy or girl’s Christmas wish come true.
“By the Grace of God and everyone’s generosity,” said Father Jason, “by the end of the coffee hour all the gift tags were taken! We are so blessed to be able to truly fulfill the words of our Lord in the Gospel of Saint Matthew:”