GREENFIELD — After Stacey Butterfield handed glazed doughnuts to a group of women clad in orange, she asked each if she could give them a hug.
Several of the women in the cell block in the Hancock County Jail accepted, embracing amidst the sounds of Christmas carols being sung by a group nearby.
A small act of kindness with nothing expected in return.
Instead of attending Sunday services at Park Chapel Christian Church, the Rev. Danny Curry encouraged his flock to “be the church” in any way they felt led, said Jud Weece, Park Chapel adult discipleship minister.
The challenge led hundreds to pour out across the community Christmas Eve. They donated toys, treated doughnut shop customers to free food and drinks, delivered pizza to people in need and performed a myriad of other acts of charity, all in an effort by parishioners to share their blessings with their community.
Church member Renee Burkhart had the idea to serve doughnuts and milk to the people serving time at the Hancock County Jail on Christmas Eve, said Butterfield, Park Chapel’s director of adult ministry.
Detainees in orange shirts, pants and Crocs ducked from stainless steel bunks or cells as the group of people streamed into their cell blocks singing carols. In each block they visited, Weece shared a short message about their reasons for being there, a message of grace, mercy, peace and joy.
Many of the inmates thanked the group for the food, songs and joyful presence.
Curry told church members if they needed ideas, they could certainly join him Jack’s Donuts, one of his favorite local businesses, to sing carols, hand out toys and provide free doughnuts to the customers who wandered in the day before Christmas.
Across social media, Park Chapel parishioners shared their plans for the day: some decided to volunteer at the Day of Love and Caring, an annual event hosted by God’s Open Arms Ministry and the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen. Still others brought coffee and hot chocolate to patients and their visitors at local hospitals or paid for customers’ breakfasts at restaurants.
Curry, wearing a festive sweater, was joined at Jack’s Donuts by members of the church choir and Santa Claus himself, who in turn serenaded the customers or handed out toy trucks and fidget spinners to the youngsters in attendance.
Donnie Turner of New Palestine comes every weekend to the Greenfield doughnut shop with his son; when he heard about the Christmas Eve event, he decided to come on Sunday instead of his usual Saturday visit, he said.
“We got to see Santa and get a free doughnut,” he said. “It was awesome, especially at this time of the season.”
Ken Watkins, manager of the shop, said Curry’s enthusiasm is a big part of spurring parishioners’ efforts.
“It’s hard to get five people to do the same thing today, but Park Chapel seems to be able to do that with hundreds of people,” he said. “Our community is fabulous. We couldn’t ask for more than this.”