SOLANA BEACH — Gift-wrapping this time of year at Calvary Lutheran Church is something to see.
Parishioners donated Christmas presents for local military families, and so many parishioners gather to wrap the gifts, that the volunteers have to work in shifts. This year, Calvary members pledged presents for 159 children and adults in 32 Marine and Navy families in San Diego County. The big meeting room beneath the Calvary sanctuary was a beehive of activity Dec. 18 as unwrapped presents lined all four walls. In the middle, teams of wrappers, some composed of entire families, worked at tables overflowing with colorful wrapping paper, tape, tissue and scissors. When they finished with one family’s gifts, they moved on to the next and it was a full eight-hour workday for more than four dozen parishioners.
“It’s a long day, but everyone loves it,” said Susie Shattuck, who is heading the annual Calvary Christmas Angels program this holiday season. “The energy is so positive and we have Christmas music, refreshments and the camaraderie of shared work to keep everyone going.”
Church members say the big payoff for all their efforts comes the next morning when many of the same volunteers rise early to deliver carloads of toys, bicycles, books, Christmas dinner boxes and other presents.
“This is a key part of our Angel program,” said Shattuck, who lives in Encinitas. “The Calvary congregation wants to make personal connections with the military families we adopt and to deliver their warmth and gratitude along with the gifts.”
“In many of the families we adopt, a parent is deployed to a war zone, and maybe not for the first time,” she said. “We’re never certain exactly how the family is feeling or how we’ll be received. Sometimes the delivery visit is brief — the team drops off the gifts, exchanges Christmas greetings and then goes on to the next delivery. Other times, we’re invited in to play with the kids, hold the baby, walk the dog, bake cookies or help the family set up the Christmas tree.”