By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
HOUSTON COUNTY – For 40 senior citizens and families in need in Houston County, Santa came a little early on Christmas Eve, bringing a big box of groceries, a turkey or ham, fresh fruit, homemade goodies, a blanket, small gift and a Bible.
But it wasn’t Santa that delivered the gifts – it was the Angels & Elves ministry.
“We help mainly senior citizens and families in need. Senior citizens tend to be the forgotten ones,” said Houston County teenager Caitlyn Mares, the brainchild of the Angels and Elves ministry.
Mares, 18, is a senior at Torchlight Preparatory Academy in Crockett. With the help of her mother, Kathy Murphy, and other “angels” and elves,” the ministry has evolved over the last few years to be able to help more residents during the holidays.
“Katie has one of the biggest hearts, even when she was little. She has an old soul,” her mother said. “This started about three years ago. She wanted to buy groceries for a couple of families. The next year it evolved to five families. People heard about it and started giving, more hands came in, and before we knew it we were able to do this for 20 people last year. This year we expanded it to 40.”
The Christmas box doesn’t just have a few cans of food – each box contained about $150 worth of groceries counting the turkey or ham to feed the recipient for several meals.
“All through my life I have heard around Christmas time that giving is much better than receiving,” Mares said. “Whenever you give, you need to know about the people in need of help. It’s not just about giving, it’s a way to spread the word about The Lord.”
Mares also received help from her school and her church, Torchlight Community Church. When Angels & Elves delivers its gifts to those in need, Mares hands out a pamphlet about her church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service.
“We offer to come and pick them up if they don’t have a ride. Last year we picked up a couple of families to take them to the service. We also took them to see Christmas lights, because they don’t get the opportunity to get out much,” Mares said.
As the ministry began to grow, Mares and her mom knew they had to come up with ideas to fund the ministry, which accepts donations year round.
“This year we started early. We came up with fundraising ideas because we realized it would be better to raise the money throughout the year,” Murphy said.
For one of their fund-raisers, they sold street tacos. Angels & Elves also held a Christmas drawing for a loaded patio fire pit filled with goodies ranging from candy, all the fixings needed for smores, a blanket and candles from Deb’s Candles.
“We sold tickets for the drawing. Some people brought in canned goods and we put their name in the drawing too,” Murphy said.
On Dec. 22, Angels & Elves drew the winning name – Connie Smith of Crockett — as the winner of the patio fire pit drawing.
Angels & Elves also provides senior citizens with meals during other holidays including Easter and Thanksgiving. After the massive flooding in the Houston area earlier this year, Angels & Elves collected and delivered items to flood victims.
When asked why they do this – Mares was quick to answer.
“Because they need the help – especially the senior citizens,” Mares said.