FORTVILLE — The letter in Amy Tucker’s hands outlined the struggles of 2017 — a season of unemployment, a family member’s advanced illness.

But the words written by a local family told not only of hardship but also of gratitude for help that will be coming this Christmas.

“Thank you so much for bringing a smile to my kids’ faces and a glimmer of hope in such a difficult year when so many times, I have wanted to give up,” it reads.

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This Christmas season, Fortville Christian Church is giving on several fronts to ease burdens. Over the years, its annual Be the Gift has focused on various themes. One year, members presented a Christmas musical at a senior care facility. Another, they organized a party for at-risk youth.

This year’s Be the Gift, unveiled during a Sunday service in November, reaches out to the regulars at the church’s food pantry, to some families in the Fortville Elementary School community and to a group of families in a neighborhood. Organizers hope to not only give at Christmas but also build supportive relationships that continue.

“It is the heart of our congregation pouring out into the community,” said Tucker, part of the church’s Be the Gift team and also a teacher at Fortville Elementary School.

“We’d worked in those areas before,” said fellow committee member Kelly Griffey, “and wanted to build on that.”

After the service when this year’s themes were announced, members of the congregation could take a tag, assigning them a way to get involved, such as buying a gift card or making a meal.

The church is providing Christmas gifts for several school families through United Way of Central Indiana. The 18 requests for help this year at Fortville Elementary, a mile south of the church on County Road 200W, far outnumber the three total from the other two Mt. Vernon elementaries.

Some church members took a tag to make a cash donation toward helping the families. Some signed up for an upcoming shopping expedition to buy the gifts; some will wrap those presents. Still others will carry slow-cookers of soup to the school for a staff luncheon a few days before Christmas.

The church also is gathering some extras for about 40 regulars at its Tuesday afternoon food pantry. Some people took tags agreeing to fill a basket with personal care items not covered by food stamps. Erin Flick, a food pantry volunteer and Be the Gift team member, pictures a more festive atmosphere for the pantry’s Dec. 19 hours, with Christmas music playing and coffee served.

The third area of outreach, help for several community families, has several facets. Some people in the church are buying gift cards to a local convenience store. Some are filling baskets with personal care items, detergent and other household essentials. Still others took recipe cards, with plans to fill a brand-new donated slow cooker with a hot meal and deliver it.

Along the way, other gestures of help have taken shape within the overall Be the Gift structures. Someone is offering 4-foot Christmas trees to the families receiving convenience store cards. A vendor servicing equipment at the church gave to the food pantry effort. The Cub Scout troop meeting in the church offered to make cookies for the food pantry visitors.

Dave Ayers, a member of the Be the Gift team, said even though he grew up as a minister’s son, he for so many years thought of church as a noun, a place to go.

“It dawned on me it’s a verb,” he said, “and that makes all the difference in the world.”

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Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at annesmith@greenfieldreporter.com