Pastor Debbie Funke and her congregation believe their mission goes beyond sending out thoughts and prayers.

“We think that as believers, we need to be hands on, not just wishing people well,” she said. “We think it’s important because as a church and Christian-based organization, part of our call is to demonstrate our love of God to the community.”

To fulfill this call, the Manhattan Presbyterian Church donates toys, clothing, groceries and more to area families in need for the holidays.

This is the 27th year church members and volunteers have prepared gifts and food items for community members, and Funke said the operation has grown greatly since the early days.

“We started pretty small with maybe two to three families,” she said. “At this point we have 48 family units – that’s well over 200 people.”

Last year, the church spent more than $10,000 to provide turkey and all the fixings for Christmas dinners, as well as fresh produce, pork steaks, canned goods, and other food items that can last families up to two weeks. Donations also include winter clothing, gifts for the adults, and specifically requested toys for children.

Church members, local businesses, schools, the Manhattan Volunteer Fire Department and area 4-H club have donated time and money, as well as help with wrapping and eventual delivery of all the gifts in time for the holidays.

Funke said that despite pandemic-imposed challenges such as social distancing, volunteers have still come together this year to make sure families in need will have a good holiday season.

To accomplish all the tasks under the restrictions, wrapping sessions have been spread out over a full week instead of one day. Volunteers are spaced apart as they assemble food baskets. Yet despite the inconvenience, Funke said the church’s community partners have been more supportive than ever this year.

“The generosity has been even greater in terms of financial support. We’ve had lots of community partners,” Funke said. “I do think that people that have a capacity to give recognize that the need is greater.”

Glenda Lord-Wright agrees. She said it’s the reason she has volunteered her time for the second year, assisting with shopping, wrapping, sorting and labeling over the last few weeks.

“Especially with what we’re going through, more and more people are in need, and those of us that can contribute financially or physically or both need to. And this is a great way to,” she said.

She also said that the moments she has shared with the families who receive the gifts have been really special.

“The families that I interacted with personally were so grateful,” Lord-Wright said. “Tears in some of their eyes.”

Funke also said that volunteers are always greeted with thanks and emotion by families who benefit from the donations.

“We see such appreciation. We see tears of gratitude,” Funke said. “We see people that are completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project.”

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