Hillcrest Hope Family Christmas party 2015

Throughout the year, Hillcrest Hope’s Avondale and Liberty families create their own communities at each site and invest in their neighbors in their own apartments. And that’s part of what makes the yearly Christmas celebration event a very special one: it’s a time for all Hillcrest Hope families to gather together. “It’s really a picture of greater community,” says Rachel Hollinberger, staff member at Hillcrest Hope.

The celebration was generously hosted by Good Shepherd United Methodist Church. “They’re one of our very dedicated church sponsors, and have hosted our parties for more than five years,” Rachel says.

The Good Shepherd congregation became involved in Hillcrest Hope several years ago, says Kayla Meredith, Director of children & family ministries at Good Shepherd. “There are many amazing organizations we can help and support, and so a few years ago, we put effort in as a church to decide where to pour into and where we could make a meaningful investment,” she says.

Locally, the church selected Hillcrest Hope. “It’s a local ministry that we know really helps turn people’s lives around,” Kayla explains. “We’re grateful to be able to support them. The ministry does so many great things on so many levels.”

In addition to sponsoring an apartment, Good Shepherd has hosted the Christmas party for five years. The church congregation prepared a holiday-worthy feast, complete with all the traditional Christmas dishes: ham, potatoes, green bean casseroles, festive desserts and so much more. The afternoon also included a Christmas-themed trivia game, including prizes.

Kayla then read the Hillcrest Hope children the Christmas Story. “A few of the kids were telling the story along with me and, clearly, they’d heard the story of the hope of Christ before, and others were hearing it for the first time,” Kayla says. “Every child was engaged and present. That was the most awesome part of the afternoon.”

As she concluded the story, Kayla explained how our modern tradition of giving Christmas presents started with the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to Baby Jesus. With the tradition in mind, Hillcrest Hope residents swapped gifts from the thrift store in a white elephant exchange.

The celebration concluded with a graduation. “We spoke to this young man’s achievements and we shared words of encouragement for him, then prayed for blessings over him as he goes out again on his own,” Rachel says. This graduate was able to save nearly $3,300 during his time at Hillcrest Hope,” not just an admirable accomplishment, but one that sets him up for success on his own.

“This Christmas celebration is a time where everybody just feels really comfortable, and it helps our families get into the holiday spirit,” Rachel explains. “We work really hard at Hillcrest Hope to make families feel like things don’t have to be really different just because they’re here. Even though they’re still working through some tough things, we want to holidays to be fun and celebratory and encouraging.”

The Christmas celebration, as a whole, was a reminder of community. “Being together helps us remember that there are people around Hilllcrest Hope who are not only willing to invest in us, but who want to celebrate with us.” And that strikes the tone for a merry Christmas and very happy new year.

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