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All Saints parishioners distribute presents to more than 800 children

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The Knights of Columbus George Brent Council hall at All Saints Church in Manassas transformed into Santa’s workshop Dec. 15, as dozens of volunteers packed up presents for more than 800 children in need.

More than 300 Prince William County families benefit from the Un-Trim-A-Tree program, organized by the council. Volunteer Prince William, a nonprofit organization, collects the names of local children in need through the county’s social services agency and sends the information to the Knights. Tags with each child’s name, age and wish are placed on Christmas trees in the All Saints Church lobby in November; gifts are returned by mid-December. Each child receives two gifts, so this year the council will distribute more than 1600 presents.

“Parishioners are incredibly generous,” said Jeff Vallimont, who has coordinated distribution since 2001. The parish’s efforts have been so successful that Volunteer Prince William asked the council to manage distribution for all of Manassas and Manassas Park, including gifts sent in by outside donors. Parishioners also collect gifts for families assisted by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, though the efforts are separately organized and distributed.

“Christmas is a season of giving and we look forward to it every year,” said Tina McIntyre, a parishioner, as she took a break from sorting and packing up gifts. The effort builds fellowship among the volunteers, many of whom bring their children and come back year after year, she said.

“It gives us a time to give to the community — and do it together,” she said.

There have been some unforgettable moments over the years, she said. This year, a little boy wrote down in Spanish that he would like to have a home and learn English. McIntyre called the family to find out what she could do to help.

“They came from Puerto Rico because they lost everything in the hurricane,” she said.

Giving a gift to someone in need is a small reminder of a bigger truth, McIntyre said. 

“We receive all these blessings from God, not to keep to ourselves, but to give away.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017