Christmas came early for Tammi Hardiman and her daughter Adrianna Fitten, 12, at the New Harvest Christian Center on Sunday morning.
Tears streamed down Hardiman’s face as she raised her arms and praised God, while Fitten wiped tears from her eyes.
“Thank you Lord, praise God,” Hardiman cried, holding up her arms while clutching a set of keys to a blue Ford van parked outside that was hers to keep.
James Patterson, pastor at New Harvest Christian Center, had invited five Anniston school kids for a Christmas giveaway that included everything on their Christmas lists.
“We’re just trying to be a blessing to the community,” said the pastor.
Fitten, an eighth-grader at Anniston Middle School, was one of the children who received an armload of wrapped presents and was grateful for the gifts as well as happy for her mother, who now has a new van.
“It’s amazing, it’s a blessing from God because we weren't expecting this. I came here ready to get word but this happened and it’s amazing,” said Fitten.
Hardiman, mother of four, had recently been in the hospital with a variety of health problems when she started talking to the pastor about her life and struggles, including an unreliable vehicle.
“When I went to see her at the hospital I told her, I said, ‘this is not about you being a member of New Harmony Christian Center, this is about you being a child of God. We are children of God, you are our sister, we want to step in as brothers and sisters. This ain’t about a church,’” Patterson told the congregation.
Hardiman was carrying an oxygen generator she needs for her medical condition but was not short of breath when it came to expressing her gratitude.
“It is overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting anything … I’m just grateful. This van will be a great help, I just don’t know what to say,” said Hardiman.
Patterson said the church donated all the money required for the Christmas giveaway and other recent charitable efforts.
The center also has a meals-on-wheels program for kids that feed 200 each week for an after-school lunch, according to the pastor.
“When the scriptures say it’s more blessed to give than receive, it’s actually a reality to us. My heart is overjoyed that we’re going to be meeting the needs of a parent with the expectations of a child. I’m overjoyed,” said Patterson.
Patterson said that next year’s Christmas giveaway will be on a larger scale.
Another student who received an armload of gifts was Jaynalee Escalera,10, a fifth-grader at Tenth Street Elementary School.
According to Escalera, her gifts included dolls, a toy kitchen and tablet.
Her mother, Johanna Fernandz, was wearing a smile as she spoke about her daughter's excitement.
“She was so excited about it, she loved it, it’s the first time we came to this church. We are planning on keep coming because she liked it so much,” said Fernandz.