Mission: The need is great, but so is faith

FILL THIS ROOM — Although it’s empty now, this room at Urban Mission Ministries’ War Memorial Building at 423 North St., Steubenville, hopefully will be filled to accommodate Christmas giving needs for 1,120 children ages 12 and younger and teens, with distribution starting next week. Cynthia Lytle, left, community developer, and Linda Costello, hunger services director, say they and the mission staff embrace faith to meet the yet-to-be-fulfilled level of need for toys and teen toiletry items. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — The need is great, and the numbers are high as Urban Mission Ministries prepares to provide Christmas gifts for area children and teens in need.

But while that might seem cause for angst and anxiety, Linda Costello smiled and chose “exciting” as the word to describe her feelings Monday as gift distributions start next week, despite collections falling behind the level of need.

“We have learned not to worry — don’t fret, because it will be provided for,” said Costello, the mission’s hunger services director.

“It’s out of our hands. We know who’s in charge,” she said.

Costello and Cynthia Lytle, community developer, compared notes Monday morning at the mission’s War Memorial Building at 423 North St., where the Christmas distribution will unfold from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11-14 for families who have met the registration deadline.

Then comes Dec. 18 and 19, also from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., for Santa’s Recycle Shop, designed to offer new or gently used toys for families who missed the sign-up deadline, but are encouraged to call Costello at (740) 282-2911.

The total number of children 12 and under and teens being provided for this Christmas through Urban Mission’s Christmas program is 1,120, according to Costello, a number higher than years past, especially with teen toiletry bags.

“We have over 300 total teens — more than ever,” Costello said.

While registration for assistance is Costello’s domain, area residents, businesses, churches or groups interested in providing gifts can contact Lytle at the (740) 314-8247 at the War Memorial Building. Unwrapped toys can be dropped off there during business hours from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. So can toiletry items — everything from shampoo to deodorant.

Monetary donations can be provided with checks made payable to Urban Mission Ministries and “Christmas Kids” noted on the memo line. Gently used toys also would be appreciated in addition to holiday decorations or Christmas trees and items to wrap presents, such as gift wrap, tape and bows.

“We also welcome monetary donations, because what we end up doing is going shopping for the kids who have not been adopted by next week,” she said.

Lytle offered a rundown Monday of the number of children in various age groups who still need to be adopted.

“From birth to 2 years old, we still need 60 kids covered to be adopted or sponsored,” she said. “For 3-to-4 years old, 64 kids; ages 5-7, we still have 128; 8-9, 84; 10-12 is 114; and ages 13-18, it’s 195,” said Lytle, agreeing that the mission operates on faith, especially at Christmas.

“This is what we do every year,” Lytle said. “Traditionally, we have great needs toward the end, and it does take a lot of faith.”

The mission also counts on its volunteers.

“We do rely heavily on our volunteers this time of year to help us get things in, to get sorted and set up for the actual distribution days, and they’ll play a huge role in those two weeks,” Lytle said.

During the distributions in the War Memorial Building, recipients will be at liberty to visit the clothing shop for free items. The mission does not need, however, donations of clothing at this time.

Costello said the mission staff focuses on faith.

“We learn to depend on that, and then we have prayer times on Monday at the warehouse now,” she said. “We have to be together as a team with our staff and with our volunteers, too, because if one of us gets bummed, it goes down the line to everybody, so we try to stay focused. That’s where you have to put your thoughts,” she smiled, an index finger pointing heavenward.

“But it’s exciting watching it all come together and all unfold,” she said. “That’s the key, each of us and as a team, we have to stay focused.”