NEW ALBANY — A battery-operated radio, a pair of socks or anything with Batman on it — the requests are relatively simple, but the needs are great.
The Christmas wish list contains more essentials than what most would consider gifts. Those asking range from grandparents to children. On Saturday, Love Unlimited 2.0 and The Hands of the Lord will host a Christmas celebration at Bicknell Park where those in need will have at least one of their wishes come true.
Meeting at the park on a Saturday is nothing new for the two organizations. They are represented there each week, distributing meals, clothing and other items to those experiencing homeless and other residents who are in need.
Hands of the Lord founder Rob Barstead said the number of people who show up at the park continues to increase.
“There are a lot of people, especially with COVID, a lot of people who are falling between the cracks,” he said. “Not only the homeless, but there are so many families out there that are desperately in need.”
Love Unlimited 2.0 is the sister organization of The Hands of the Lord. Members organized a Hope Tree campaign and asked the regulars at the park to submit at least one item they’d like for Christmas.
The organization then sought donations to fulfill those wishes, and on Saturday, the gifts will be distributed beginning at 1 p.m.
The two groups have also arranged for a catered meal, and Barstead said extra gift packs have been prepared in case some new folks attend.
“We’re going to make sure that everybody gets something to take with them for Christmas,” he said.
Santa Claus and the Grinch will also be making appearances at the event. Barstead said they want the mood to be spirited as they celebrate the holiday season. He’d like to see people show up in Christmas gear and prepared to have a good time.
The work of the two organizations has attracted more community involvement.
The New Albany Lions Club became a regular part of the Saturday charitable work last fall.
Sara Glass, eyeglasses chair for the New Albany Lions Club, has helped some of the people obtain vision assessments. She also applied and was awarded a $500 grant through the state chapter to purchase nine tents and eight sleeping bags, which were given to Hands of the Lord for distribution.
“While working alongside Hands of the Lord, and Love Unlimited 2.0, I quickly realized that there were basic needs that these groups were working to address,” Glass said in July. “There is an ongoing need for tents and sleeping bags — especially as the weather is turning colder.”
In an email to the News and Tribune last week, Glass said there’s a continued problem in the area with people facing food and housing insufficiencies.
She said Saturday’s planned celebration shows several people are stepping up to “help make Christmas a little brighter for our friends.”
And at the top of the list is the people who volunteer for Love Unlimited 2.0 and The Hands of the Lord, Glass said.
“Not only do they help with the needs of the day, but they do their best to connect those in need with the services they can access,” she said. “In short, they work to provide a ‘hand-up’ instead of a ‘hand-out’.”
Barstead admitted he’s had a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. His father died in early 2020, and he said it’s been a tough season for him because of the loss.
Yet in that sadness, he’s found gratitude.
“I have a roof over my head. I’ve got food to eat. I’ve got enough money to pay all of my bills and still have leftover for fun stuff,” Barstead said. “There are so many people out there right now who don’t have that, so we are blessed to be able to provide just a little bit of something that they would not get that helps make this a Christmas for them also.”
The organizations accept financial donations, but clothing and food contributions are preferred. For more information, email Barstead at email@example.com.
Saturday’s event is slated to run from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.