WESTFIELD-Traditions are a special part of the holiday season, and for parishioners at UCC Second Congregational Church on Western Avenue, a Mitten Tree is at the forefront of their giving endeavors.
“The Christmas season is a time of traditions, especially traditions of caring, of thinking of others and not just ourselves, of giving gifts to those who need them most,” said Scott Clark, coordinator of the church mission committee.
For more than 40 years, Clark noted that Second Church members have honored a “very special” Christmas tradition – the Mitten Tree.
“Every year we have taken the opportunity to show our caring and love for the Sioux Indians in South Dakota, surviving members of a group who historically have suffered displacement, defeat, even genocide,” said Clark, adding, “yet they continue to live proudly in the area of their ancestral homelands.”
Clark noted the mission committee coordinates logistics with the Sioux YMCA to ensure that new hats, gloves, mittens and scarves collected are given to the children and adults that they serve. Committee members working on the project include Angela Powell, Debbie Wood, Susan Foley, Howard Eberwein, York Mitchell and Holly Lurgio.
“Because of the pandemic the Sioux of South Dakota have suffered from even more unemployment and economic problems than usual,” said Clark, adding the YMCA director reiterated the need for warm clothing this fall.
“We invite the entire Westfield community to help us help others,” said Rev. Barbara Hesse. “We will need warm mittens, scarves, hats and gloves by Dec. 6 which will give the YMCA time to give them out before Christmas.”
Hesse added that since it is bitterly cold in South Dakota, they send only mittens, scarves, hats and gloves that are made for and appropriate for that type of weather.
Clark shared a similar sentiment.
“Think of the icy winds that sweep across the Great Plains of South Dakota, an area that was already hit with snowy blizzards this October,” said Clark. “Think of the boys, girls, women and men to whom you can give the simple gift of warmth. They will be reminded of your kindness every time they put on their new mittens before they step outside into that bitter cold.”
For area residents who would like to make a donation to the Mitten Tree, call Liz at the church, (413) 568-7557, to make an appointment to drop off items. All sizes, small and large, will be welcomed.
“We are not able to worship inside, but we will still adorn a Christmas tree with gifts,” said Clark, adding the tree will be shown at the Dec. 6 worship service on the church website – www.SecondChurchWestfield.org.
“This is Second Church’s Christmas tradition to begin this season of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to show us how much God loves us and to teach and inspire us to love one another,” said Clark. “Get your whole family – children, grandparents, everyone – in on selecting these gifts.”
“We also support projects all over our country and the world because all people are God’s children, our spiritual sisters and brothers,” said Hesse. “God has called us to care for all of His people and all of His creations; God’s love knows no national boundaries.”
On a related note, church members are also collecting items this holiday season for the YWCA New Beginnings program for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
“We have been ‘Christmas Angels’ for these abused women and their children for the past several years and will continue to be such this year even if we also have to adapt to COVID-19,” said Clark. “Because of the new conditions in place due to the pandemic, we are collecting specific items until Dec. 17 including children’s winter jackets, mittens, hats, and boots, and winter gloves, boots, coats and jackets for women.”
Clark added that coloring books, paint sets for children, and paper to draw on are also items they are collecting for the program.
For more information or to drop off donations for the Mitten Tree or for the New Beginnings program, call the church office.