Simple Gifts (cont.)

Brother and sister Juan, 7, and Melisa, 5, made paper chains fit for a Christmas tree while librarian Bonnie Falla read a story aloud. At another table, Cami, 7, put together a silver tiara, sash, stole, necklace, bracelets, and kneepads—a princess these days likes to roller-blade as much as the next kid—for her holiday wardrobe. The stage’s back curtain became an impromptu gallery as children pinned their creations on it.

All the kids received a T-shirt (Melisa’s was so long that she decided to wear it as a nightgown) and a goodie bag, as well as the artwork they had made. A number of families took provision boxes of leftovers: some to feed friends, others to have a second meal later in the day.

“When you’re on the margins, not much changes—unless the drop-in center doesn’t get the food to feed you,” said Joel Atkinson, the Episcopal priest who is canon missioner (outreach coordinator) for the cathedral. “But one thing that’s scary is that ever since the attack on the World Trade Center, the impact on local charities has been severe. We depend on contributions.”

Other seasonal generosity came from the library staff, with its Christmas tree decked out in cold-weather gear; a caroling group organized by Santo Marabella, who directs the Moravian M.B.A. program; and the shoebox gift project of the Learning Connection, an activity of the College’s Community Service Office.

On December 18, Marabella and a baker’s dozen faculty, staff, friends, and family took the campus bus, which had volunteered for the occasion, to Blough Health Care Center in Bethlehem, Cedarbrook Nursing Home in Fountain Hill, and Manorcare Health Services in Bethlehem. The carolers sang for more than 200 residents and also provided the choral voices for a Nativity program at Blough.

“All who participated enjoyed themselves and felt that it was a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Marabella said.

Librarian Mickey Matuczinski said the library staff decorated its Christmas tree with gloves, hats, scarves, and socks. Gamma Sigma Sigma sorority donated it all to Turning Point of Lehigh Valley, an advocacy center and shelter for abused women.
The shoeboxes, officially known as Holiday Hope Chests, were filled with age-appropriate gifts—from headbands and barrettes to crayons and stickers—for needy children. They originated as a way for schoolchildren to help other children. Now The Learning Connection, a three-year-old program that matches Moravian students with at-risk children, has gotten into the act, too.

TLC enlisted groups from residence halls, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, a Learning in Common class, and Seminary staff to contribute to the shoebox project. They gave sundries, toys, small items of clothing, cards, cash (which was used to buy additional gifts), gift-wrap and ribbons, and enough empty shoeboxes that coordinator Phyllis Walsh had to call a halt to donations.

TLC children and their student mentors filled and wrapped the boxes, which were distributed to children in local shelters by the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley. In 2000, the project gave 550 shoebox gifts; this year, 1,575.

“The idea of making the holiday season more joyful appeals to children of all ages,” Walsh said.

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Cas Sowa, director of international studies, and Anne Dutlinger, assistant professor of art, help children make decorations (for the holiday and themselves) at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity’s holiday dinner.
Photos: Michael P. Wilson