Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church has come a long way from its humble beginnings operating out of the back of the Rev. Kerry Kincannon's old stationwagon.
With its own church on Russell Road just off the Route 1 corridor in Lee District its message and congregation remain the same.
It is there for the homeless, the disenfranchised, the lost and the needy, whether that be in body, soul, spirit or being.
On Dec. 18, Rising Hope Church once again brought home to their congregation the true meaning of Christmas in the form of what they have called "The Blessing of the Angel Gifts." It was the first such ceremony in their new location.
"It's a blessing to be able to continue to serve the community in this way," Kincannon said. "To be able to share the meaning of Christmas with them. It shows all the love that God has for us if we will just open our eyes."
Since the church's move from its townhouse location tucked in the corner of Engleside Office Park, Kincannon said the congregation is beginning to grow.
"We are getting strong regulars within the community for support," Kincannon said.
Blessing of the Angel Gifts is the kick off event for Rising Hope Church's Christmas observances. Their other primary Christmas initiative is the distribution of Christmas baskets on Dec. 21.
"This past Thanksgiving we delivered 234 baskets of food and we plan to do about the same for Christmas," Kincannon said. Each basket contains a full meal with turkey and ham.
Many of the Angel Gifts went to volunteers at the church such as Joyce Boston.
"This is my first year with the church. I just started volunteering this year. It has become like a second family to me," Boston said.
Volunteers from St. Mathews United Methodist Church Youth Group helped Rising Hope's staff distribute the gifts.
"We do a lot of different things within our youth group and we are associated a lot with Rising Hope," said Jenny Moore.
THIS YEAR RISING HOPE distributed 610 gifts to 305 people along the Route 1 corridor, according to Laura Derby, programs and office administrator for Rising Hope Church.
"We have seen some increase for requests this year. But, it’s pretty much the same as last year," she said.
In addition to their pre-Christmas activities, Rising Hope also offers a sit down dinner on Christmas day.
"This year it will be a lot easier because we have our own kitchen and a fellowship hall for the dinner," Kincannon said.
As each family's name was called, Derby and her volunteers presented them with a bag filled with gifts.
"This is the first time I've gotten any gifts. I've been volunteering at the church since March," said Ola Lanchford.
Joining with Rising Hope Church in sponsoring the Angel Gift program were the following United Methodist Churches: Andrew Chapel, Annandale, Burke, Cameron, Christ, Franconia, Good Shepherd, Immanuel, St. Paul, Washington Farm, and Washington Street. They were also joined by Mount Vernon Rotary Club and St. Aiden's Episcopal Church.