‘Giving tree’ broadens its branches


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Viera’s St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church’s Rev. Brad Beaupré, left, and outreach volunteer leader Al McKenna get one of the giving trees ready for brisk business as parishioners take ornaments adorned with the Christmas wishes of children and elders in need. Photo by Wendy Scheuring

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church has been hosting its Christmas “Giving Tree” since 2007, when the community moved to its new location at 5655 Stadium Parkway in Viera. 

“Our first ‘Giving Tree’ had 100 ornaments. Now we have anywhere from 350 to 400 ornaments,” Rev. Brad Beaupré said. “The parishioners here are very generous and like to give back to the community.” 

The need is so great that the church will have two “Giving Trees” this year. They will be decorated with stockings, snowflakes and stars, which will be labeled with gift suggestions for local children and the elderly.  

The program runs through Dec. 15, but it is expected that most of the gift requests will be taken within the first few days.

St. John has teamed up with local helping organizations, such as Devereux, the Central Brevard Sharing Center, Senior Santa (geared to the elderly in nursing homes and hospice) and the Brevard County School District’s Student-Parent program.  

Bikes, trikes and basketballs are typical gifts donated to the Central Brevard Sharing Center; no-slip socks, slippers and sweaters for the seniors; and gift cards, gas cards and diapers are popular gifts for children in the Student-Parent program.

The church also collects monetary donations for its mission in Peru. 

“Father John (Britto Antony) and I belong to the Holy Cross of Priests and Brothers,” said Al McKenna, a volunteer leader on the church’s Social Concerns and Outreach Committee. “We have a mission in Peru which needs all kinds of things. The people are very poor so we gather money they can use for whatever projects they have.” 

Beaupré says that participating in the “Giving Tree” program affects not only the ones who receive the gifts but their families as well.

“The ‘Giving Tree’ gives our parishioners an opportunity to live the Gospel message of Jesus. Jesus said to love your neighbor and to be generous and to think of others.”

McKenna said that’s just what parishioners do.

“This is a very caring and giving church here. It’s fantastic. I’ve never seen a giving community like this before,” McKenna said. 

For more information, go to stjohnviera.org or call 321-637-9650.