Spreading the Christmas spirit

December 24, 2011

By Rosanne Bowman The jingle of the harnesses, the clop of hooves, the voices of carolers singing old favorites — for residents on the south side of downtown Lima, these are the sounds that greeted them last weekend. Area residents look forward to the event, now in its 10th year.Every Christmas season, Restoration Temple, located at Eureka Street and Orena Avenue, rents a horse and wagon. They load it up with church members, prepare plates of cookies and drive from the church parking lot down Kibby Street, and cover about 10 to 12 blocks, including McPheron Avenue, Linden Street, Prospect Avenue, Scott Street and Harrison Avenue. “We rent the horse and wagon from Weis' Royal Carriage Company,” explained Linda Swick, church member and coordinator for the annual event. The planning for the event starts several weeks beforehand when Swick puts out a sign-up sheet for cookies. “Women from the church sign up to make cookies,” she said. “We usually have between 200 and 300 dozen. Then we get together the week before and put them on plates, wrap them in cellophane and tie it all up with ribbon. We put a paper inside that tells about our church and the story of the Gospel. We have it down pretty well — we do it like an assembly line.”Swick and church members also hand out flyers in the surrounding area so residents know when to expect them. On the day of the event, the procession lined up with a truck in the front and back, loaded with cookies. Carolers, around 15 in all, piled into the wagon. “Of course, some of the kids get cold and end up in the wagon, too,” said Swick with a laugh.This year, almost 50 people showed up for the event which is more than the usual 25 to 30 they have had in past years. “We had a great turn out,” said Swick. “We had a lot of young people this year, too.”The rest of the participants that were not in the wagon divided up into two groups and took the plates of cookies, knocked on doors and talked with the residents on each street. The Rev. Jon Salsbury, associate pastor of Restoration Temple, oversees all the people on the ground.“We make the groups stay on one side of the road or another,” Swick said. “We don't want kids running back and forth across the streets, all helter-skelter.”The route took a little over an hour this year, and the group handed out 256 plates. “If we noticed a lot of kids in the home and it seemed like a large family,” said Swick, “we gave them two plates.”After the group finished the route, all the participants returned to the church for hot chocolate and some cookies of their own. Youth group workers Eva Salsbury and Sarah Dulmage came up with the idea originally. Swick became the coordinator the second year the church did the event. In the 10 years since they started this event, the church has only had to cancel once, due to weather. “It was a few years ago when we had all that ice in 2008,” explained Swick. “The day we had it originally planned for, the temperature was 5 degrees with a wind-chill of minus 25 degrees so we canceled it. Then the next time we scheduled it, we got an ice storm, so we ended up doing it on Dec. 28 that year.”For the church, the event is a way to get to know the neighbors that live around Restoration Temple. It is also a way for them to both bless the area residents and to share the Gospel with them at the same time. “I guess it just gives you a good feeling in making people happy,” Swick said. “It's great to see people out on their porches or in doorways waving to you. It helps put the spirit of Christmas in your heart and get away from all the tinsel and glitter.”The hardest part of the whole thing is containing the excitement of the children that are involved. “I used to get uptight about things when I handed a kid a plate and they took off,” Swick said. “I'd be all worried they wouldn't take care of their plate, and the cookies would be broken. I'm past worrying about it now. This whole thing is another benefit for the kids. They learn that it really is better to give than receive.”Swick felt that this year was one of the best ones they have had. “We had a great time and the weather was so nice,” she said. “It was probably the warmest it's ever been when we've done this. We had taped music that the carolers sang to which made it nice and loud so everyone could hear. More people were home this year, too. It really is my favorite Christmas event each year.”If you have a story idea or an item you feel the community would like to know about for the Religion section, please contact Rosanne Bowman at or 419-516-6149.