On an unseasonably warm Tuesday morning Dec. 10, the line of people at Tompkins Square Park on the corner of East 10th Street in New York City swelled to a little over 100. Some had been there since 1 a.m., armed with ponchos and umbrellas to battle a steady rain that fell on the city most of the night.
They were waiting for the doors of Graffiti Church to open for its annual toy sale outreach event. Inside, Graffiti’s pastor and New York City Send Relief missionary Taylor Field, along with about 20 volunteers, also were waiting, anxious to spread a little Christmas cheer.
Field and several of the volunteers — some donning Santa Claus hats and makeshift reindeer antlers with various Christmas salutations attached — were in position at 9:15 a.m. when the first toy shoppers entered the church.
Qualified shoppers paid what Field called “a very low cost for new toys.”
“This gives them the dignity of providing for their own children,” Field said.
Those attending also received prayer and heard the Gospel in a one-on-one setting with Graffiti’s prayer counselors.
Repeated refrains of “Merry Christmas” greeted each attender. In the church’s basement, volunteers served coffee, hot chocolate, cookies and other pastries. Kareem Goubran, one of Graffiti’s worship leaders, also played his guitar for the guests.
Goubran loosened up the crowd with a gregarious spirit while belting out familiar Christmas tunes. At one point, toy sale shopper Michelle Rodriguez and a few others warmed up to the spirit of the moment enough to showcase their own vocals as Goubran accompanied.
“We just really appreciate everything that this church is doing for us here for Christmas,” Rodriguez said a little later as she made her way out the door with a bag full of toys. “This just means so much to us and our community each year.”
Some of the shoppers were there for the first time while others were veterans of the annual event.
Then there were those like Carmen Villanueva, Graffiti’s office manager. Villanueva has known of Graffiti for well over 20 years. A former Catholic, she and her daughter were baptized and joined the church 13 years ago.
Since then, she’s volunteered for the toy sale outreach event and other ministry activities each year. But the toy sale has a special place in her heart — perhaps because, at one point, she was on the other side of the event as a shopper.
“We’ve been in this neighborhood, and we’ve raised our kids here, just like Taylor (Field) and (his wife) Susan,” Villanueva said. “I brought my kids here to the toy sale years ago, so the good thing about this event is there are a lot of people in the line who are familiar faces.”
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Source: Baptist Press