Volunteers, Gifts Needed For Citadel Christmas Celebration
December 14, 2017
By John Steinberger | Contributing Writer
Ever since 2011, Without Walls Ministries and dozens of churches and business partners have organized a Christmas Day celebration at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The event is based on the philosophy expressed in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 25, which calls upon us to feed the hungry, clothe the cold and visit with the lonely.
West Ashley resident Gordon Cashwell leads Without Walls Ministries and had the inspiration for bringing thousands of people from all walks of life to celebrate Christmas at the football stadium. The event is a great way to bring the community together and to engage in conversation and experience joy with people you may rarely come in contact with.
Cashwell, who is a marathon runner, founded his ministry with the vision of bringing people of different denominations, races and economic statuses together. The group does many community outreach activities in low income neighborhoods. He says, “Our mission is to tear down the walls which separate us and bring the love of Jesus in word and deed outside the four walls of a church to the poor and the hurting in the Charleston area.”
The event requires a large volunteer network. Set-up begins Sunday, Dec. 24 at 9 a.m., and there are volunteer shifts on Christmas Day running from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. To sign up, visit BirthdayParty4Jesus.org and click on the Volunteer link. You may also call (843) 958-1039 to schedule volunteer opportunities. The website also includes a food provision sign-up and a donation link. Choir volunteers should just show up at the stadium at 11 a.m. and report to director K.C. Lombard.
A motorcycle rally is part of the lead-up to the celebration. Riders should arrive at Lowcountry Harley-Davidson, 4707 Dorchester Road in North Charleston, at 10 a.m. Christmas Day. There is a $10 registration fee for the riders, who are also encouraged to bring a gift box.
The volunteers and visitors at the event share a meal together and enjoy singing along with the choir. Actress and film producer Chris Weatherhead assembles a cast to perform a live nativity scene play. A variety of services are provided inside the stadium, including haircuts and medical and dental screening.
As guests file out of the stadium around 3:30 pm, they may receive gifts. The goal for the 2017 celebration is to be able to serve 3000 meals and distribute 500 bicycles, 1000 gift boxes, 4000 pairs of socks, grocery bags and winter coats and blankets. Any of the gift items may be dropped off at the Hope Center at 633 King St. (ask for the location of the Without Walls Ministry office) on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. or at the stadium on Christmas Eve. There is plenty of free parking outside of the stadium. Instructions for packing the gift boxes can be found at the bottom of the website.
Teens are encouraged to volunteer for the event. Children 12 or younger may volunteer if accompanied by a parent. Among the volunteer skills sought are hair stylists, barbers, medical and dental professionals, singers, dancers, and other entertainers. Sunday school classes are encouraged to organize children’s activities.
This event is a very uplifting experience. The food is delicious, the music is joyful, and smiles abound. It is wonderful way to serve others in need and connect with them. It is emblematic of how diverse and compassionate our community is. It is really gratifying to see all of the high school and middle school students who choose to volunteer.
West Ashley businesses Krispy Kreme, Savannah Highway Chick-fil-A, The Kickin’ Chicken and Shadowmoss Golf Club are all business partners for the celebration. Ashley River Baptist Church and the International Church of God serve as church partners.
John Steinberger is the editor-in-chief of LowcountrySource.com. To contact him, email John@LowcountrySource.com.