And They Came, Bearing Gifts for Day Laborers

Post a Comment » Written on January 6th, 2009     
Filed under: News
LIVINGSTON, NJ (January 6, 2009) – The dozen or so day laborers huddled together two days before Christmas in temperatures below 19 degrees and hoped someone would offer them work. They were perplexed when a member of Trinity Covenant Church pulled up in her car, opened the trunk and wished them, “Feliz Navidad.”

Karen – who let only her first name be used – had come bearing Christmas bags with gifts that members of the church had put together the night before. All the bags included homemade baked goods, candy, fruit, warm hat, gloves, socks, scarf, and Chapstick, as well as other items. Some of the bags included a t-shirt or a sweatshirt. The bags themselves varied from gently used gym bags and backpacks to canvas totes and decorative Christmas gift bags.

Each person also received a Christmas card with greetings in Spanish, along with an insert in Spanish and English, explaining why the church was giving the gifts, says Pastor Susan Gillespie.

“Others had no gloves. A few had no hats.”

The men expressed how grateful they were to be remembered at Christmas. “It is a hard time,” one said. Another called Karen a “beautiful lady.”

When other laborers showed up on the corner, their friends greeted them with a handshake and then sent them to get a gift bag. After receiving their bags, the men walked back to their “stations,” hoping to be picked up for a day’s work. They shared how the recent snow had been a blessing because it meant more work on those days.

“Many of the men had gloves that were thin and had holes in them,” says Gillespie. “Others had no gloves. A few had no hats.”

More than half of the men were young, but older men also stood waiting for whatever work would be offered. After 45 minutes of standing with the laborers, Karen’s feet were so cold they hurt, and her fingers were numb. The men, however, never complained about their own discomfort.

The ministry to the men started last Christmas when a cookie baking day at the church had produced “too many cookies,” Gillespie said. The bakers decided to give the cookies to the day laborers, who were far from home.

Women Ministries at Trinity provided the bulk of the needed funds, along with donations from a local supermarket and others, Gillespie says. Church members of all ages contributed to the project.

Karen told people who had questions about the ministry that it was not meant to be a political statement about the men. “They’re cold,” she explained.

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