- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

An interview with Daniel Osagie Erhabor, founder of the Love Foundation Christian Center.

Question: What prompted you to throw a holiday party for hundreds of children?
Answer: The party was inspired by the September 11 tragedy. We realized that so many children were affected directly by losing loved ones or by parents who lost their jobs as a result of the World Trade [Center] and Pentagon bombings. So we decided to use the Christmas season to bring back hope and give children and families a positive experience something to rejoice about. The response has been overwhelming in terms of support, and we're expecting between 200 and 500 children to attend.
The Christmas Celebration for Children takes place on Saturday, Dec. 15, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Springhill Lake Elementary School, 6060 Springhill Drive in Greenbelt. Santa will be on hand to give out gifts, and we will celebrate with music and free food.
We want to usher in the positive spirit of Christmas and help parents who may not be able to afford presents for their children because of their current employment situations. That's the reason for the party.
Q: How did you get Santa Claus on such short notice?
A: We sent a special envoy to the North Pole to let him know that we needed him here for this special occasion. You see, even during these difficult times, the spirit of Christmas still prevails.
Q: Who is pitching in to help Love Foundation Christian Center with the Christmas Celebration for Children?
A: We are trying to get the community involved, and we're trying to get other missions involved to help the underprivileged. So we are reaching out to places like Value City, Giant, Safeway, Three Brothers and McDonald's.
So far, McDonald's has donated some gifts for the children. Three Brothers has donated pizzas, and Popeye's is going to donate chicken.
We've gotten some great responses so far. We're working with Springhill Lake Elementary School that's the school in our community. The principal there, Mrs. Linda Sherwood, has been extremely supportive of the idea, and she's allowing us to use the school's premises for the party.
Q: Along with Santa and the children, who else are you expecting at the party?
A: Well, we've invited Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry and Judith Davis, the mayor of Greenbelt, along with members of our community. We're also expecting the directors of the organizations who have supported us in the planning of the Christmas Celebration for Children.
And we've extended an invitation to a very special guest, first lady Laura Bush. Right now, we're waiting for a response from the White House. We hope she can join us, since Mrs. Bush seems to have a tender spot in her heart for the young ones. We felt her presence with us would send out a message of hope to the children and their parents.
September 11th is one of the greatest tragedies we have experienced in this country. The bombings brought fear and a sense of insecurity to many. That's what the terrorists wanted to achieve. I believe we are supposed to counter that with a project like this one. By doing so, we let terrorists know that we're not afraid because we believe in a higher power, which is God who protects us and keeps us, if we only believe and trust in Him.
Q: What role do you feel the church should play in the wake of September 11 and the war on terrorism?
A: The church should be in the forefront in bringing inspiration, direction, hope and encouragement to our society. We want to let people know there's nothing to fear, so they can move on with hope and faith.
At the same time, we can reach out in love to those who have been affected. We're here to do whatever we can to help people deal with their losses and encourage them to move on with their lives. That's why we're hosting the Christmas party.
Q: When did you begin planning the party?
A: We didn't start planning the party until the first week of November. That's when the idea came to my wife and me. The children's department at our church was planning to have a holiday activity for our church members and their children. But then it came to my mind that we could do it for the community and not just restrict the party to the members of our congregation, since we aren't the only ones who need to enjoy some holiday cheer.
Q: Is the party limited to children and families in Greenbelt?
A: No, everybody is welcome.
In the beginning, we thought that we would just have the party for the children in the Greenbelt community, but the party is expanding by the day. Now other communities are participating, like the Berwyn Heights community which is right next door to Greenbelt. College Park wanted to join in, so we're expecting children from that community, along with children from the Lanham community. We also have some children coming from the District to attend the Christmas celebration as well.
I guess it was the latter part of November when I realized the party was going to be bigger than I originally planned. The response has been overwhelming we've gotten a lot of support, and people seem to think it's a good idea.
Q: What does Love Foundation Christian Center need at this point to ensure the party's success?
A: We need more food. We need more soft drinks, but most of all, we need more toys. We want to make sure that every child who attends leaves with a toy.
We started wrapping gifts [last] Wednesday, and if we have to work through Friday night, we will. It just depends on the number of gifts.
We don't want to be restrictive when it comes to donations of gifts, but we would rather not have toys that encourage violence, like toy guns. Other than toy guns, all toys and books would be greatly appreciated.
Q:: Whom should people contact to donate gifts or food?
A: All people have to do is call the church office and let us know what they would like to do.
Every donation, every toy will be appreciated. They can also visit us at our Web site for additional information about the Christmas Celebration for Children at www.lovefoundation.org.

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