Over 120 children and adults representing five different congregations around the city packed into the Richmond Parks and Rec Center on Saturday night for the Community Christmas Celebration. Organized by Sabrina Saunders, Executive Director of One Accord, a 501c3 organization, the Community Christmas Celebration event is dedicated to helping local families in need celebrate a joyous Christmas.
Among the dozens of holiday events happening in Richmond this season, the Celebration stands out as the only one to gather several congregations together for a night of thankfulness and giving — along with a good amount of eating, joking around, and singing.
“Bless these moments we have together,” said Pastor Henry Washington of Garden of Peace Ministry. Walking among the tables of families laughing and talking together, Washington called for unity in the city and an appreciation for what people have in their lives. In addition to its goal of togetherness, the Community Christmas Celebration — now in its third year — stands out for its philanthropic endeavors. Last year, the event gifted over 150 kids with new winter jackets and provide grants for families to cover electric bills.
“The giving is the best part of this event,” explained Sabrina Saunders, who co-organized the event with Pastor Washington. “We love seeing everyone gather here for a free meal and the chance to get gifts to put under the tree on Christmas Day. Many families would not have that opportunity otherwise, and we love the chance to help local families.”
Each year of the Celebration has proved bigger than the last, with more congregations and families partaking in the event. This year continued that trend, but this time there was less to give out than in previous years. “People couldn’t give as much this year,” said Washington. “This year’s election had a unique impact upon this city, and that is especially true to this crowd. People weren’t as engaged,” he elaborated.
There may not have been as many presents to spread around this year, but there was no shortage of joy or celebration at the event. Kids in Santa hats and festive clothes ran between the tables while their parents chatted with the pastors and members of other congregations.
“What I was most looking forward to was the fellowship,” explained Martha Bell, a member of the St. Luke congregation. “It’s always nice to see old friends from other churches to get together in celebration of the holiday.”
Between rambunctious renditions of holiday classics, gift card raffles, impromptu speeches from the pastors, and a belly-filling soul food meal, the Community Christmas Celebration had a little bit of everything that make the holidays a season of giving and togetherness. “Next year, we’re hoping to be even bigger. In fact, we might even need a bigger space,” said Saunders. All that’s needed is the community, and the celebration will follow.