Plano UU church works with Baptist congregation to send shoes, gifts at Christmas
For three years the church has joined with Holly Brook Baptist Church of Hawkins, Tex., two hours east of Dallas, to help the children of Chupaderos. This year the members of Community UU Church filled 45 gift boxes and donated more than 100 pairs of new and used shoes.
The relationship with the Baptist Church began in 2006 when women from Holly Brook were making reusable diapers and diaper bags from old T-shirts. Community UU members contributed many shirts to that project. The next year both congregations collected coats, gloves, sweaters, and scarves. And that led to this year’s project.
“Last year as the children accepted the warm coats people noticed they had no shoes,” said Linda Frank, coordinator of the project for Community UU Church. And so church members contributed new and used shoes. “They wear the used ones for work in the fields and the new ones are for going to church,” said Frank.
The gift collection this year means that for the first time in recent years every child in the village will receive a gift box, she said. In other years some children had to be turned away.
Chupaderos wasn’t always this poor. From the 1950s through the ’70s it was the backdrop for a number of Hollywood westerns and other movies, with actors like John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, and Clark Gable walking the streets, and movie crews spreading cash around. But that’s pretty much over and the residents struggle to make a living from farming in the semi-mountainous area of central Mexico northwest of Mexico City.
Frank said the gift boxes, about the size of shoeboxes, include small toys, notebooks, pencils, toothbrushes, and similar items. “We’re reminded not to include items that need batteries because they can’t afford them. So yo-yos, harmonicas, and solar calculators are included. We also include one new item of clothing, such as a T-shirt. That’s a big deal to these kids.”
She made the connection with the Baptist Church through a friend who is a member there and goes on mission trips to Chupaderos as a translator. The Baptist church sends a delegation there four times a year, in connection with a sister Baptist church at Port Isabel, Tex., on the border with Mexico. On these trips they take medical personnel and supplies as well as basic food supplies, including large bags of rice and beans.
Frank said the children at Community UU spent a Sunday morning wrapping gift packages that they and other church members had contributed. “At first we were only going to do 10 boxes, but there was so much enthusiasm we did more than 40.” The gifts and shoes were taken to Hawkins and a delegation from there is making the deliveries to Chupaderos, she said.
She added, “This small interfaith ministry is very important to the members of our church. It is an ongoing opportunity to work in harmony with other churches to help our fellow inhabitants of our planet, and especially the children. We look forward to many years of cooperation.”
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.