When someone becomes a homeowner through Habitat for Humanity of Greater Dayton, we don’t just hand them the keys when the house becomes theirs and say, “Good luck.” Our relationship with and care for our homeowners lasts not only through the length of their mortgage commitment with us but beyond. That is never more evident than in our expanding Christmas Assistance Program.
Montgomery County Habitat homeowners have had their Christmases made merrier for over a decade through a relationship with St. George Episcopal Church in Dayton. St. George’s program is called The Giving Tree and is traditionally run using an actual tree. Ornaments with each child's wish list are selected by members, who then shop for the items. But because of the pandemic, they switched to a "virtual" tree the last two years with gift cards given to families so they can shop for their own gifts. This past Christmas, 39 underserved children received gift assistance through this wonderful partnership.
“When I came here about nine years ago, they were already working with St. George Episcopal,” said Habitat Homeowner Services Program Manager Marsha Martin. “I just helped out since I was the coordinator at the time. When we merged with Greene County (in 2014), we had a church to help for one year. The next year they couldn’t do it, so we asked one of our business partners, Synchrony, if they’d like to be a part of it. They were so happy to be able to do it.”
Synchrony blessed 14 underserved Greene County children with gift assistance this past holiday season. Plus, with the addition of Clark County to our affiliate on Feb. 15 of this year, our Christmas Assistance Program expanded again. A new partnership with the Salvation Army and its Angel Tree project will help Clark County Habitat families with gifts. We also were able to connect some of our families with a local church to received a holiday dinner box.
“I like the fact that it has grown,” said Marsha. “What makes me stay in the family services capacity is I was that family on the other end, knowing what I needed but not knowing how to get it. I’ve been that family in need, that family that is homeless, which is more reason that I understand where they’re coming from. I really take to families that are really trying.”
St. George’s annual loving of our Habitat families is part of its comprehensive outreach effort, which includes its teens helping on Habitat job sites, turkey drives to raise money for a food bank, plus serving at House of Bread in downtown Dayton and at “The Castle” in Centerville.
“We try to do what we can to support the Lord’s work locally, nationally and internationally,” said St. George’s Rector Ben Phillips. “Our outreach committee definitely has a heart and passion for supporting local organizations. We try to find where there is a need, and then stick with it. The Giving Tree is just one example of how we try to be Christ’s hands and feet in the smaller, underserved areas in our community.”
Sharon Oldham, the Giving Tree’s coordinator, says it’s the hearts of her church’s members that sustains this effort.
“Our mission includes worship, love, learn and serve; this kind of fulfills the serve portion,” Sharon said. “I know that to all of our members, it is close to their hearts. I think it is because it touches the children, who aren’t able to speak for themselves at times.
“Last year, we went a significant amount over our goal,” she continued. “So we got them additional gift cards so they can supplement the meals or so the parents could have something for themselves, too. They often neglect themselves in favor of their kids. Just knowing that many lives are going to be impacted through this program is a great feeling. I would hope that through this we will open the hearts of families receiving these gifts; to show them that churches do great things and do care.”