The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

December 16, 2012

In the giving spirit

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — Christmas came 10 days early for little Skyanne Davis.

The 2 1/2-year-old was excited about receiving a pink Radio Flyer trike Saturday during Greenville’s first-ever “Spirit of Giving” event sponsored by the Greenville Lions Club.

Her mom was excited, too.

“I’m on fixed income and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Krista Davis said. “Then I heard about this. This is the only way we’re able to get Christmas for her.”

Skyanne and hundreds of other children received toys during the event staged at Greenville’s Farmers Market. And 62 kids rode away on new bikes they won during drawings throughout the event.

During the day, the Farmers Market was transformed into a group of “stations” where volunteers gave away a variety of items that included 4,000 toys, along with clothes, home decor, furniture, mattresses, bedding, dishes and rugs. A lawnmower and big screen television also were given away.

“I’m just humbled to be a part of this,” said Chuck Francey, project chairman for the Lions Club.

Francey said “Spirit of Giving” was a community effort. Other civic clubs were involved, along with churches, businesses and individuals.

“It’s amazing how this community has come together to help out,” he said.

The Greenville event was based on a ministry started in 2007 by Mike Woods of Paris, Texas. During the first year, about 600 people were served. About two dozen volunteers and one church were involved. Last year, the “Spirit of Giving” in Paris provided assistance to more than 3,000 people, with help from more than 15 churches and 300-plus volunteers. Similar events, like the one in Greenville, is held in six cities in Texas and Oklahoma.

The Greenville event was kicked off Saturday morning with brief speeches by Woods and his wife, Lisa, and Renee Francey, president of the Greenville Lions Club and wife of the project’s chairman.

“This is a miracle and we get to witness it every year,” Lisa Woods said. “Now, you’re a part of it.”

Renee Francey urged participants to focus on the “spirit of giving, not so much on the spirit of taking.”

The Rev. Kelly Reagan, pastor of North Baptist Church in Greenville, said about 15 members from his congregation participated.

Reagan said it was a blessing see the entire community turn out to participate in a “giving” event. The effort could be seen in the stacks of brightly colored toys and the many other other items that would be given away.

“Unbelievable,” he said.

Francey said the first-ever “Spirit of Giving” in Greenville will not be the last.

“We’re going to do it again next year,” he said.