Teens spread cheer

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Shelby Brown of Faith Christian Family Church sings a Christmas song, Wednesday, to Dylan Thompson, 6 months, while his mother Christy Thompson looks on. Faith Christian Family Church also provided gifts for hospital patients.

By Jenna DeWitt: CNJ staff writer

Giving without expecting anything in return and bringing christmas cheer to strangers came naturally to teenagers from Oneighty youth group this season.

The youth group from Faith Christian Family Church delivered presents to every patient and staff member in Plains Regional Medical Center for Christmas Eve on Wednesday in an event called Operation Christmas Cheer.

New mothers recieved $25 Wal-Mart gift cards to buy toys and necessities for their infants.

“It’s nice to know people are caring and praying for you. It takes a big heart to do something like this for someone you don’t even know,” one new mother, Stephanie Gallegos said. She and her seven-week-old daughter Ava will hopefully be released from the hospital on Christmas Day.

Other presents varied from blankets and stuffed animals to iPods and digital cameras. The group gave Christmas cards with movie passes inside to the 280 nurses and staff members on duty during the four hospital shifts spanning Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The teens sang carols throughout the hospital as they delivered the gifts.

One of the carolers, Alek Mendoza, said she enjoyed seeing the mothers holding their children.

“I think it’s really great to see the smiles on their faces,” Mendoza said.

The gifts were purchased with $3,000 raised entirely by the teenagers through offerings taken during the Wednesday night youth services. Students said they were motivated to give to their community because they wanted to make a difference.

“I enjoy giving to other people. God has blessed my life. It’s sad to see people stuck in the hospital when I get to spend tonight with my friends and family,” group member Omar Sosa said.

Fellow high school student Michael Grooms said he noticed many of the younger students had changed through the project.

“A lot of the kids are acting more mature and growing up because of this,” Grooms said. “When I was a kid I didn’t have much, so it’s cool knowing how this could affect someone’s life.”

The event is part of a larger campaign by the youth group to positively impact the community. The group’s director Dan Borwick, who prefers being known as Rocrageous, said the theme of the new movement is to help the community “just because.” Leaders hope to teach the students to serve without expecting any reciprocation.

“We love people because it’s the right thing to do. We are not trying to pay people back. Oneighty is about serving and putting others first,” Borwick said. He also said the teens were a driving force behind the Oneighty movement.

“They just jumped on board with this.”

This is the first time the youth group has delivered gifts to the hospital. Several of the 54 students said they would do it again.

Meagan Alvarado, a 12-year-old middle school group member, said she was the third person to sign up when the leaders asked for volunteers.

“I wanted to spend my Christmas Eve helping people. They are really grateful. We pray for them and hope they get out soon,” Alvarado said.