A special time for our kids.
The Spiritual Life Center circle drive becomes a parade of vehicles delivering gifts and donations. Small cars, crossovers, SUV's, minivans and trucks pull up one by one packed full of gifts collected at churches, United Methodist Women (UMW) meetings, businesses, clubs, and organizations. With each delivery, a little more Christmas hope and love fills the building.
The Spiritual Life Center Christmas tree is a wonderful backdrop for the enormous outpouring of support. Numerous local businesses and organizations conduct toy drives and many other individuals and families provided monetary donations and gift cards. Many of our UMW and United Methodist Churches provide Christmas presents and gift cards for our kids.
It takes a village
The Spiritual Life Center's Heritage Room becomes the staging room for gift wrappers. More than 100 volunteers- community groups, UMW units, organizations, individuals, and families-are busy wrapping presents and making sure each one has that personal touch so when the kids see them under the tree they feel the warmth of Christmas joy.
Our youth experience the joy of Christmas giving as well. Thanks to wonderful volunteers, the chapel becomes the Kids' Shop, packed with donated items of all kinds, becomes a shopping experience for our kids. They get to pick out small, inexpensive gifts for the special people in their lives. And there are volunteers anxiously waiting to wrap those presents for them.
Walk through Bethlehem
Amidst the hustle and bustle, the true meaning of Christmas is not lost on our youth. In early December, they are treated to a Cunningham Christmas-time tradition, Walk through Bethlehem. The Spiritual Life Center chapel is transformed into what Bethlehem may have looked like over 2,000 years ago. Youth dress up like villagers; participate in the census just like Mary and Joseph, and experience crafts, games and even a tasty snack of Camel Feed! Finally, our kids get to imagine what the first Christmas was really like with a live nativity scene and the story of when Jesus was born.
A visit from Santa
Youth in our Residential Program enjoyed a visit from Santa that included a conversation and photos with the big guy and a present, of course. Then the kids got to decorate sugar cookies any way they wanted to and boy did they make the most of that opportunity! Our CIRCLE schools both had celebrations of their own with gifts from Santa as well.
Toward the end of the month, after Christmas parties, cookie decorating, and a visit from Santa, our kids come together in the chapel for their Christmas program. They dress like angels, kings, and wise men and once again celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Cunningham has a tradition of going to Arby's each year between Christmas and New Year's for a meal for a very special reason. The late Bill Myers, who was one of the owners of the franchise and a strong Cunningham supporter, lived in a children's home as a child. And he remembered the holidays and how tough they could be for kids and staff. New owners, Randy and Laurel Tucker, along with the staff at Arby’s, are carrying on Bill’s legacy by honoring Cunningham kids and staff with this break from routine.