WHEELING — Bethlehem Apostolic Temple hosts its annual Thanksgiving food distribution on Saturday, but the church’s 30th Christmas giveaway next month will see challenges this pandemic season.
The Thanksgiving food distribution is set to happen at 11 a.m. Saturday at the North Wheeling Community Dream Center, 407 Main St., Wheeling.
Typically, about 500 to 600 families turn out for the distribution, but in the past there has been as many as 1,000 attending, according to the Rev. Darrell Cummings.
“The way I understand it, there will be fewer larger dinners this year, and more smaller ones,” he said. “People won’t be going to Grandma’s as much this year, and more people need food now.”
He said while the church is prepared to set Thanksgiving tables, the Christmas giveaway is posing extra challenges this year.
Donations are always needed for the event, but this year a larger hall will be needed so youngsters choosing toys can socially distance.
“We are struggling right now with how there is going to be one. We haven’t been able to get the support yet we usually get,” Cummings said. “Right now, putting all our energy into just doing the Thanksgiving giveaway on Saturday.
“We believe there will be one (a Christmas giveaway).”
A major component of the Christmas giveaway is that a child enters a room filled with toys, from which they can select their own gifts.
For this to happen this year, the church will need to find a larger space to permit social distancing, according to Cummings.
Earlier this year, the church experienced a sprinkler system break and flooding on its upper floors, and events are now limited to a smaller area in the basement.
“Our biggest struggle is for the kids to be able to pick out their own toys,” he said. “We have to have a certain amount of area. Because of the building that was flooded, we don’t have that room and can only have a certain number of people inside.
“We’re trying to figure out, do we do appointments? Or do we have volunteers spend hours picking out toys for them? It’s definitely not the best way to do it. This pandemic has definitely challenged us in ways we never dreamed possible.”
The church is trying to adapt wherever it needs to make certain local children have a Christmas, Cummings said.
“This Christmas is definitely the hardest, but with God’s help we will find out how to make it happen,” he said. “We don’t have a location. We don’t have the funds yet. We don’t know the way yet. But it will be done. We will find a way.”
He said one of the consequences of the pandemic is the mental toll it is taking on young children and teens.
“Even the little kids are suffering mental anguish during the pandemic, and teens are having more mental challenges than before,” Cummings said. “With God’s help… they could come out of this especially strong. But we would hate to add to it by not doing anything.
“I can’t see us not doing it. Even if I have to stand on a corner — we’re going to figure out a way. We will not contribute to the mental anguish of children.”
Those wanting to donate to the Christmas distribution may do so by calling the church at 304-233-8899, or mailing a check to Bethlehem Apostolic Temple at 330 Main St., Wheeling 26003.
Contributions also can be made online at bethlehemapostolictemple.org.