Thursday December 20, 2012
Christmas blessings were bestowed on the families attending Jay’s Christmas Party at Community Bible Church in South Burlington on Saturday, December 8th. The second annual event, held in memory of Jeannette “Jay” Lefebvre, spread cheer and goodwill through the community and the gift of giving was received by the volunteers and donors who made the festivities possible.
Party tickets were distributed by Community Bible Church members and the Children Ministries SuperKidz to friends and neighbors whose spirits needed uplifting. As word of the event spread, the phones started ringing. Within 10 days the party had reached full capacity.
Event organizers and South Burlington residents Robin Danaher and Debbie Purcell, Jay’s daughters, were overjoyed to welcome 1,000 visitors to the church’s temporary winter wonderland, doubling the size of last year’s party.
Three hundred and seventy-three wide-eyed children and excited teens enjoyed games, face painting, crafts, bounce castles, and entertainment, including the 20-foot decorative Christmas tree trimmed with singing puppets. A live nativity scene reminded visitors of the true meaning of the Christmas season. A spectacular Snow Princess and dozens of well-dressed elves added to the holiday fun. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived from the North Pole with their list of the nice girls and boys and presented each with a wrapped gift. Delightfully, none were naughty.
“Watching it come together is quite spectacular,” said Danaher, special events coordinator at Community Bible Church. “It’s special to me that our whole church would get involved with this. The most special part of this is that it’s done in honor of my mother.”
Jay is remembered by those who knew her for her kindness, adoration of children, and love of Christmas. Though she was a woman of modest means, she gave willingly from the heart and shared her worldly treasures with those she loved. For 40 years, Jay served as a nanny and housekeeper to Burlington philanthropist and businessman Tony Pomerleau. As a tribute to Jay’s dedication and devotion to the Pomerleau family, Tony sponsored the party with a $5,000 donation, matching his 2011 contribution.
“Many kids and their families do not know my mom,” shared Danaher, “but they do know the heart of her when they walk in the church doors.”
South Burlington resident Heidi Smith attended the party with her youngest son. “It was amazing,” said Smith, facing what may be her last Christmas with her husband, Frank Petrosino.
Petrosino, 44, has been battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig Disease since 2010. Recently, this community leader and father of two boys, Talon, 13, and Tristan, 10, was moved to Hospice care.
As Danaher and the Community Bible Church parishioners became aware of Petrosino’s circumstances, they went to work collecting cash donations and coordinating a holiday gift package for the family. The Petrosino children will realize the grace of their South Burlington community on Christmas morning when their parents reveal the magnificent surprise.
“We’re deeply grateful,” said Smith of the congregation’s response. “They have been so generous and kind and thoughtful. It’s really going to make this Christmas an extra special one. We’re working on creating memories that the boys will hold on to for the rest of their lives. It’s a Christmas miracle.”
The party and gifts to children and families like the Petrosinos were made possible through the generosity of many local businesses, volunteers, donors, The Church of Christ, Jay’s friends and family, Tony Pomerleau, Pastors Mike and Dianna Kriesel, and Community Bible Church. “That’s the magic of Christmas to me,” said Danaher.
Inspired by the giving spirit of Christmas, preparations for next year’s party are already dancing around in Danaher’s head. To help bring miracles to more deserving families in 2013, donations can be mailed to Community Bible Church, 2025 Williston Road, South Burlington, VT, 05403.
SOURCE: Lisa Osbahr, Correspondent