DENHAM SPRINGS -- Last month, the community center at First United Methodist Church became Santa Claus’ workshop, where a group of volunteers were busy as elves trying to make the holiday wishes of nearly 100 children come true.

Once again, they succeeded.

Approximately 94 children from 25 families in the local community received gifts from First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs, along with a Christmas meal, as part of the church’s annual Christmas distribution program.

Funds for the program came from the church’s congregation and the community, which donated $11,500 to purchase the gifts for children from nine area schools. Each bag contained toys, clothes and a brand-new Bible, and the boxed meals included a turkey, among other treats, from church’s food pantry. 

The holiday distribution program started 23 years ago under Joyce Annison, a member of First United Methodist who began the program while working as a school nurse. After retiring in 2002, she brought the program to the church, where it’s been carried out ever since.

“We want to give the children something they love,” Annison said. “We do everybody in the family, from babies to high-schoolers.”

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