LAKE WYLIE — Kentucky Mission, a local mission group, is spreading Christmas cheer and goodwill throughout five states.
A group of seven, including some students from the Lake Wylie and Clover area, headed out Thursday to deliver Christmas presents to those in need, having already stopped close to home Dec. 13 in Gastonia for a gift giveaway.
“It’s all God’s, so we give it away as gifts,” said Kentucky Mission founder Pastor Brent Warr. “It’s just wonderful seeing people come out and learn and listen to what we have to say.”
In fact, with the help of volunteers, Kentucky Mission achieved a first Saturday by holding three giveways in three states at the same time in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. On Monday, they were back in South Carolina holding a giveaway in Chester.
Marquis McClure, 18, of Lake Wylie and a senior at Clover High School said Thursday before leaving from Lake Wylie Chistian Assembly for his second Kentucky Mission, it’s something he’d like to do for the rest of his life.
“Standing in the cold and snow giving out presents is fun, but to see people age 6 to 90 get saved and they’re smiles, that’s the best,” he said. “That’s what keeps me coming back.”
That trip is one of many Kentucky Mission carries out each year. They have what they call The Master’s Giveaway, handing out school supplies in August, Christmas shoeboxes and jackets in December, and furniture, food and clothing multiple times throughout the year. Along with their giveaways, they also offer re-building and disaster relief assistance.
“It humbles myself,” said Haley Thomas, 20, of Clover, who was on her second Kentucky Mission.
For eight years, Kentucky Mission has helped people in need in North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. The first year, 300 children were served. Last year, 4,200 gifts were given out. This year, Warr said he hopes to serve 5,500 children.
“The kids are the heart and soul of what we’re doing now,” Warr said. “We can show them that they are loved.”
Those who can’t make the trip but want to pitch in to help pack items and help deliver them. Olivia Phillips, 10, a student at Bethel Elementary School, has helped wrap presents, dress dolls, donated her own toys and clothes, and done anything else she can to help the organization.
“I think it [Kentucky Mission] is a good way to show Jesus’ love to other kids,” she said. “The Bible says it is better to give than receive. I love giving! I love sharing the love of Jesus.”
Warr knows the mission has had an impact on those they’ve served.
“We’ve had kids try to come home with us on trips, from little ones all the way up to teenagers,” Warr said.
The Rev. Jim McClanahan of Rainbow Ministries in York said he has traveled the world on missions from France, Belgium and Russia to Third World countries. He said seeing people in his own country so impoverished “is really disheartening.”
“We take so much for granted,” he said.
Kentucky Missions works with several churches and organizations to collect donations and reach out to people in need, including Lake Wylie Christian Assembly, which has been involved for at least three years.
“I’m fully behind what he does,” said Pastor Lewis Gunn of Lake Wylie Christian. “I’ve seen the pictures of what he does and talked to people in the area where he works, and he does a good thing.
“It provides clothes and coats and toys for kids in some very poor areas in Kentucky and here also,” Gunn said.
It was a few years ago when Warr spoke to the Lake Wylie church and “rallied their hearts,” Gunn said. Now, members collect items and some have traveled on the mission trips.
“They’ve always been impressed,” Gunn said.
Donations of good, clean used and new toys, as well as coats and other items for infants to adults are accepted year round at Lake Wylie Christian Assembly, 5766 Charlotte Hwy.
Lake Wylie Pilot Editor Catherine Muccigrosso contributed to this story.