Christmas can be a difficult time for children whose lives have been affected by violence. On Sunday volunteers at United Believers Community Church in Kansas City gave away more than 100 presents so some of these children will have a better Christmas.
The church has held the event for several years, but Pastor Darron Edwards said this was the largest one yet. He invited around 300 children affected by violence within a 20 mile radius of the church.
Meisha McGowan’s four kids, ages 11 months to 9 years, were happy with their gifts. McGowan, a member of the church, said she’s grateful for the event and the opportunity to provide presents to all of her kids.
“For them, it’s exciting,” she told the “Kansas City Star.” “For me, I just feel really blessed and thankful, because I’m a mother of four and sometimes it’s hard to do certain things. Finances get hard at times, but it’s just the little things that count. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.”
Edwards also wanted the event to address issues with gun violence in the Kansas City area, where there have been 179 homicides so far this year. It already has surpassed 2022 as the second-deadliest year ever recorded in the city and is inching closer to 2020’s total of 182, the city’s deadliest year on record.
Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said every community member should care about killings in the city, no matter where they occur. She said she and other police officers want community members to resolve issues and disagreements peacefully and not resort to violence.
“I want to speak life to people, especially regarding violent crime we’re facing in Kansas City,” Graves said. ” We need to change our history.”
Edwards said he thought it was important to have Graves and other police and city officials present to reinforce trust between law enforcement and the community. At the event, community members could see the relationship their pastor has with officials and meet those officials in a casual setting, he said.
“You don’t just see Chief Graves, but you get to)know Stacey, or not just see Mayor Pro Tem Ryana Parks-Shaw, but see Ryana,” he said. “And see that they’re people who live in the same communities that we live who are dealing with the same issues of crime that we are.”
–Dwight Widaman | MV