Christmas meals, gifts provided today by Target Dayton for those in need

Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

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Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

A local ministry is looking to take a Christmas Day service citywide to double the amount of giving next year.

“Hopefully, (they’ll) step up to be a blessing at Christmas-time and the giving of kindness and love to others, and to step up to help this work for so many people to come and find Jesus and have their lives changed,” said the Rev. Mark Stevens, of Target Dayton Ministries. “That’s what it’s about.”

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Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

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Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

The ministry, which Mark and Cindi Stevens launched 19 years ago, shuttles the poor and homeless to its Xenia Avenue home from all over Dayton. It started its Christmas Day giving in 2013 and the charitable effort has grown so large that Target Dayton decided to move it this year to the Dayton Convention Center.

On Wednesday, volunteers distributed 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes for the city’s homeless and needy following a service that lasted about 30 minutes.

The holiday giving amounted to more than double the 1,000 box lunches and gift boxes prepared for last year’s Christmas event.

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“This is the most amazing thing ever,” said Cindi Stevens, tears welling up in her eyes as she greeted people with a wide smile, a greeting of “Merry Christmas” and a hug. “To be able to love on our folks, to be to give them a Christmas and point them to Jesus is amazing.”

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Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

caption arrowCaption
Target Dayton Ministries held its Christmas service at the Dayton Convention Center Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, and volunteers greeted attendees as they entered the venue, then worked to distribute 2,200 box lunches and gift boxes as they exited. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

Staffed by more than 300 volunteers, the event also provided to those who attended the service an RTA ticket to any destination in the city.

Samantha Kunka of Dayton attended with her 5-month-old son and said seeing the effort on such a large-scale was “pretty cool.”

“It means a lot because there’s a lot of homeless people that don’t get Christmas,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t have families for Christmas, and I think this makes them feel better.”

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Volunteer Brent Hendricks said he started attending Target Dayton services with his wife Renettta and their seven children in 2003, when the ministry served about 150 people each Christmas service.

“As the building their expanded, and the need expanded, we just kept going with the ministry wherever they went,” Hendricks said. “We serve throughout the year, but Christmas is the big one.”

Tonya Cox of Dayton said Target Dayton Ministries’ effort was “wonderful” and brought a lot of people together.

“They’ve expanded out more and (are) helping more and more people have caught word of it,” said Cox. “Dayton is kind of downhill and a lot of people are needing help and everything and I thought this was awesome for them.”

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Samantha Alspach(of Dayton said the service and what it provided was “amazing.”

“It’s just what the Christmas spirit is about,” she said.

Gary Smith, of Dayton, agreed.

“It just reaffirms that there are caring people even though there’s employment trouble and there’s some problem with finding people apartments,” Smith said.

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