A cold rain could not drive away the holiday cheer that erupted from the crowd outside the Community United Methodist Church of Middle Village and Forest Hills last Friday, when a tree lighting ceremony drew revelers of all ages to usher in the holiday season with Christmas carols, Santa, and a chance to make military troops’ lives brighter.
Dozens of people gathered under tents set up near the Christmas tree in the church’s courtyard at 75-27 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village for the festivities sponsored by the Middle Village Chamber of Commerce, the Middle Village Kiwanis Club, and the United Methodist Church of Middle Village and Forest Hills.
As families laughed together under the tents, area Girl Scouts, including Daisies Troop 4412, Brownies Troop 4413, Juniors Troop 4943, Cadettes Troop 4611, and Seniors Troop 4742, sang beloved Christmas carols before Santa Claus arrived – sans reindeer – for the official tree lighting.
Those who attended the event also donated items for military troops as part of Queens Metropolitan High School’s “Operation Give Back” program.
“We want those serving us to know they’re remembered,” said Samantha Vidal, a Woodhaven resident and Queens Metropolitan senior who launched the Operation Give Back program when she was a freshman.
As part of the initiative, students collect everything from body wash and books to canned foods and movies for troops stationed here and abroad.
“We make them cards and decorate their boxes,” said Vidal, who noted she was inspired to start the program in part because she has family members in the U.S. Navy and Marines.
Vidal and her fellow students welcome donations year-round. To find out more information about donating, email Vidal at email@example.com.
By Anna Gustafson