John Hambrose, left, and his wife Meg, middle, parishioners of the Church of Saint Gregory, deliver dozens of gifts collected by members of their parish to Sonya Sarner, Refugee and Immigration Services Program Manager of Catholic Social Services on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The gifts will be distributed to local refugee families. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

CLARKS GREEN – Nearly 60 refugee children, many from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will have gifts this holiday season thanks to the kindness of parishioners from the Church of Saint Gregory.

For the last several weeks, the parish has been collecting gifts for refugee families and their children, who range in age from newborns to teenagers.

“We created an Angel Tree at Saint Gregory’s and the parish adopted all the kids,” parishioner John Hambrose said.

Over the course of two days, Friday, Dec. 11, and Monday, Dec. 14, Hambrose and his wife delivered all of the gifts to the Catholic Social Services Immigration Program Office in Scranton.

“I’m very fortunate that Saint Gregory’s is working with us and my clients,” Sonya Sarner, Refugee and Immigration Services Program Manager of Catholic Social Services, said.

Sarner provided the Church of Saint Gregory’s Service Commission with the names and ages of children, along with their clothing sizes and some things that would make good gifts for them. Parishioners handled the rest. In addition to toys and practical gifts, the parish is giving each family a Walmart gift card so that they can purchase other items they need.

“It really elevates everybody’s Christmas spirit,” parishioner Meg Hambrose said. “This is what it’s all about – giving to others, welcoming people who are foreign to our community and making them feel welcome. That is part of what Saint Gregory’s mission is.”

In recent years, Scranton has become home to many new communities, including Congolese, Bhutanese, Syrian, Afghani, Somali, Burmese and other refugee groups who have resettled here with assistance from Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton.

This is not the first time the Church of Saint Gregory has assisted local refugees. For the last several years, the parish has sponsored a large Christmas Party for refugee families. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the party could not take place this year.

The Christmas Party has been a favorite annual event for both parishioners and the refugee children. For many Congolese kids, it was the first time they were able to see Santa Claus.

Outside of the holiday season, the Church of Saint Gregory also helps refugee families whenever Sarner is in need of assistance.

“I recently had a single grandmother, she lost her job, no food, no money,” Sarner explained. “They stepped in immediately and provided gift certificates and donations.”

As they dropped off dozens of bags of beautifully wrapped presents, John Hambrose took pride in being able to help his new neighbors.

“We hope the generosity reflects how fortunate we are,” he said.