As we continue living in COVID world, our holiday season was anything but normal. All of us tried to capture some degree of holiday spirit, given our circumstances. “Love Out Loud” is a local organization that faced a similar challenge this Christmas.
Love Out Loud launched “Christmas for the City” in 2008 with the goal of helping local churches connect with the community and celebrate Christmas in meaningful ways together. It began as a 3-night event at the Millennium Center that included music, crafts, art, food, and activities that were provided by local churches and organizations. In 2019 the event had grown exponentially to over 12,000 guests and 1,200 volunteers over one evening at the Benton Convention Center. Over 3,500 donated meals were served, 12 performance spaces filled the air with music, from the Parkland High School Marching Band, to theatre, to a gospel choir, to dance ensembles flowing through the hallways. The Convention Center was full of the Christmas spirit.
With all of our pandemic restrictions, Love Out Loud knew this effort was more important than ever, so they had to figure out how they could present Christmas for the City, 2020 style. I spoke with Liz Miller, Partnership Director at Love Out Loud, about how the Christmas for the City teams began planning in May 2020, all while keeping the “magic” of Christmas for the City and doing so in a safe manner for the community.
Ultimately a partnership with The City of Winston-Salem, The Winston-Salem Fairgrounds, and The Drive became a Drive-Thru Christmas experience. The Drive-Thru included live music, dancing, giveaways, Chick-fil-A sandwiches, Sunshine Beverages, a collection of supplies for Senior Service’s “Remember in December” initiative and, of course, Santa! Liz explains, “After the Drive-Thru, individuals could continue to a short Drive-In service with amazing gospel music, powerful speakers, prayer, and encouragement, in a time when connection is so needed. Honks could be heard echoing as makeshift “Amens” during the service.”
“The team spent just as much time leaning into health professionals for protocols and guidance as we did planning the content of the event—landing on guidelines for volunteer and organization distancing protocols, plenty of PPE, masks required for all volunteers and recommended for individuals driving through the experience. The Drive-Thru and Drive-In experience provided a great sense of community and togetherness without the concern of transmission.”
The Presenting Sponsors of Christmas for the City 2020 were The City of Winston-Salem, The Sutton Family Foundation, and Goodwill Industries of NWNC. The Executive Team included: Jonathan Allen, Rocio Celias, Liz Miller, Chuck Spong, Lanie Ehlinger, and Jo Lowe. They would like to also thank the 150+ volunteers that dedicated their time to serving that evening.
“Christmas for the City has always been one of my favorite days of the year—it’s a beautiful picture of the best of our community coming together, and individuals putting aside their differences and bringing their gifts to the table. In a year like 2020, our team knew we needed to do something to call our community to celebrate together, while continuing to Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly. It was amazing to see some of the same faces continuing to participate and finding community, prayer, and encouragement—and have joy, which has often been hard to find this year,” says Liz.
Included Quotes from Volunteers at Christmas for the City:
“I was happy that we could still share the love of God safely, even in a pandemic. We were so happy to see others, even in our own group.” ~ Mt. Tabor UMC Volunteer
“It was very well organized and I enjoyed being able to serve people, while also bringing Christmas cheer in a safe and fun format. Thank you for organizing!” ~ Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity Volunteer
“We enjoyed talking with folks. Lots of smiles. A joyful experience, even as people shared their difficulties/prayer requests.” ~ Mt Tabor UMC Volunteer
If you would like more information on Christmas for the City or about Love Out Loud…
Stay up-to-date about Christmas for the City at www.Christmasforthecity.com
Find out more about Love Out Loud at: www.loveoutloudws.com
Volunteer Needs: Volunteer.LoveOutLoudWS.com