For Jeremy Blake and other members of Cross Brand Cowboy Church, volunteering at Hunger for Love’s annual Christmas Under the Bridge event on Saturday provided a very literal way for them to let their lights shine for Christ.
The group was responsible for hanging and later taking down the Christmas lights that streamed under the Gentry Parkway bridge throughout the afternoon and evening.
Blake has volunteered at the annual event for six years and always enjoys how it brings together people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life.
“We talk and we pray and we eat and we cry,” he said. “It gives some of us the chance to see how (things) could be and gives some people the chance to relax and have a Christmas present that would never have that opportunity.”
At the 8th annual Christmas Under the Bridge event, various volunteers, businesses and organizers worked together to serve 650 people a Christmas meal, provide Christmas gifts for children, give clothing and other essentials to all in need and share the love and message of Christ.
“God has blessed all of us as volunteers either with time, talent or finances that enable us to pull this off,” said Heidi Eslicker, the mother of one of the three young men who founded Hunger for Love. “At the end of the night your heart is so full and you see so many smiles not only on (the recipients’) faces but on the faces of volunteers.”
Christmas Under the Bridge is an extension of Hunger for Love's weekly Saturday ministry that takes place under the Gentry Parkway Bridge.
Volunteers began setting up for the afternoon event in the morning. The event opened with the organization Jesus’ Closet distributing hats, scarves, gloves and blankets to those in need. A live nativity, children’s activities and entertainment were also featured.
Santa Claus also took time out of his busy schedule to visit with children.
“We are very fortunate God has looked over this ministry and we are fortunate to partner with churches and businesses in this area that allow us to put this on at a reduced cost,” Eslicker said. “We couldn’t do it without the community we have in Tyler.
“We are all together on this earth and if we can share the celebration of Jesus’ birth with one more person we are blessed to do so,” she later added.
Before the event began, Blake said he had several hopes for who were present.
“I hope what people see is that at the end of the day our financial status, our bank accounts, our intelligence level is not what sets us apart,” he said. “What makes us unique as humans is our relationships with one another and our need for love.”