Community Church at Tellico Village is hosting its third annual Foster Care Angel Tree ministry and inviting the community to get involved.
The Rev. Devin Phillips, pastor of communications, and wife, Lauren, started the ministry because of a burden for children in foster care.
Devin and Lauren adopted their youngest daughter. When she was 3 months old and still in foster care, a social worker called Lauren and asked what the little girl wanted for Christmas. Lauren assured the social worker the child was taken care of.
“I just tried to probe a little bit about why she was asking,” Lauren said. “She told me that they tried to make sure every foster child receives Christmas presents for Christmas every year. I said, ‘Well, do you guys have trouble doing that?’ I was just asking her a bunch of questions about it, and she said they do struggle every year to make sure every child has a present, and I just felt like that was unacceptable, and we’re going to make it happen.”
Devin shared the concern with their church family.
He said it wasn’t hard to get the church on board since CCTV likes to get involved with the community, especially when children are being helped.
“I think when you look at CAC, Child Advocacy Center, several members of the founding board of that are from our church because our church has this history of being in the community and wanting to serve,” Devin said. “When we brought this to them, they were like, ‘Of course. We want to take care of them. We want to provide kids who are going through the most difficult, traumatic times in their lives. We want to help provide them presents for Christmas, to try to give them a little bit of joy.’ We started that and partnered with surrounding counties.”
Last year, the ministry provided presents for 300 foster care children. This year, the total is around 200. Lauren said the final number depends on which counties get involved and how many children are added to the system before Christmas.
The Foster Care Angel Tree works with counties in the East Region of the Department of Children Services, which includes Loudon, Monroe, Roane, Morgan and Scott counties.
“There’s three churches in Knoxville that ensure all of Knoxville DCS is taken care of,” Lauren said. “The surrounding smaller counties don’t have that same kind of support. This is kind of how we got involved and how we found the need and how we got our church involved.”
As of Sunday, most of the children have been sponsored. However, DCS offices are always in need of diapers, baby wipes and all sizes of clothing. The ministry also needs large bags in which to package gifts, so there are more ways to help, Devin said.
The ministry is not limited to CCTV members. To sponsor a child or find out more ways to help, visit www.tellicochurch.com/events.
Devin had to adapt the ministry due to coronavirus concerns.
“Traditionally, we’ve had a tree in our narthex outside our sanctuary,” Devin said. “You come by and get a tag from there, and it’ll have the kid’s name, how old they are and their wish list, their clothing sizes. Then people would go and take that tag and go and shop for them and bring those presents, unwrapped, back to the church office where they drop them off. Then we go through them and sort them and bag them, make sure we have everything and then load up the big U-Haul.
“Then we take them to the DCS office, and they distribute to the kid’s social workers,” he added. “This year, we’ve done kind of both. We have the tree in the church, but also knowing a lot of people are choosing to worship online from home, we have an online sign up form on our website. You can go on there and select a preference of age or gender of the child and do our best match.”