Members of the Northwest Chapel are serious about giving.

Members of the Northwest Chapel are serious about giving.

In fact, the church at 6700 Rings Road intends to help more than 1,000 central Ohio residents with its "Give This Christmas Away" program Dec. 11.

The program was started last year after the church decided to turn an annual Christmas party into community outreach and surprised organizers.

"We started asking around, what kind of thing do you do to serve in the community? We were blown away by how many active people in our congregation already were in the community serving, so we thought rather than us saying: 'This is what we're doing,' we said, 'Let's just support what people are already doing,' " said outreach ministry team member Steve Rand.

Challenges went out to church members to organize volunteer events. Rand said 100 or 200 volunteers were expected, but more than 500 participated last year.

"We're a church of about 1,000," he said. "What that did to the sense of purpose and what we are as a church is amazing. On the day of the event we thought we had 11 different projects planned. We found out that day of at least four more projects people had taken on."

"It touched a lot of people and did a lot more than any of us expected to," said outreach pastor Martin Guerena. "It was like a puzzle coming together."

Like last year, the church again put out challenges to church members and groups to organize events for the Dec. 11 event. Guerena said the response has been good.

"This year there's been a hunger to do it again and we want to do more and different things," he said. "Again we were surprised by the number and diversity of projects from Habitat for Humanity to soup kitchens to the Angel Tree program."

This year's planned volunteer opportunities stretch across central Ohio and include participation in Welcome Warehouse's Adopt-a-Family program, a Christmas party for international Ohio State University students, providing gifts for residents of Celebrate Recovery at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, serving food at Faith Missions, collecting practical items for backpacks and cooking a meal that will be given to the homeless around central Ohio, volunteering at the Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Foundation and providing musical entertainment at the Dublin Retirement Center.

Rand said the church will also participate in Angel Tree, a program that connects children with an incarcerated parent through a gift. Volunteers buy presents that go to the children along with a note from their incarcerated parent.

"The parent writes a note and that's attached to the present and it goes to the child," Rand said. "The notes are just heart-wrenching."

Volunteers will also do construction work at a Habitat for Humanity site in the Linden area.

Last year volunteers were invited to write an entry in a journal for the program and Rand said a response from a 5-year-old girl captured the spirit of the project.

"She wrote, 'When we're going to pass out presents, I'm (going to) give the present to a person and say God loves you.' A five-year-old captured the entire spirit of Give This Christmas Away," he said.

For additional information on the Give This Christmas Away, contact the Northwest Chapel at 614-761-0363 or look online at northwestchapel.org.