By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
More than 250 Christmas gifts left Temple last week, headed for orphans in Donetsk, Ukraine.
The project has turned into an annual mission for Belton Church of Christ. It's the third year for volunteers to brighten the holidays for little ones left alone in the world.
Steve Taliaferro is the man responsible for launching the program. He lived in Ukraine December 2002 through May 2006.
'I worked in the local orphanage as a missionary for World Wide Youth Camps,' Taliaferro said. 'My job was to help transition the older children from orphanages to mainstream society.'
Once they reach age 16, Ukraine children are no longer eligible for orphanage services.
'They need help starting their lives,' Taliaferro said. 'That was my job.'
The missionary, upon his return, became an involved member at Belton Church of Christ. He said he wanted to continue his service to the Ukraine orphans.
New touches to this year's holiday giveaway are the prayer bears.
'Each present will include a little prayer bear,' said Laura Huff, church secretary and project volunteer. 'They were made by kids from Bible study and from Belton Christian School.'
The smiling bears are green and blue. Each contains a pocket in the front that has a special message, reading things like 'Jesus loves you' or 'God has a plan.'
The team who put together the gift packages together will be in Ukraine Dec. 31-Jan. 11, visiting the orphans the church helps each year. Team members include Gracie Gibson, 15, Jane Gibson, Taliaferro Ms. Huff, Darlene Wiley and Gay Lynne Wiley.
Jane Gibson will be serving as the mission photographer in Ukraine.
Taliaferro added that all 90 of the orphanage's staff will receive gifts as well.
'Those of us who went last year, we gave some gifts to the people who work with the orphans,' Taliaferro said. 'Their response was touching. They said it was so nice to be remembered at the holiday.'
The church has been raising money for the Ukraine Christmas project the entire year with fundraisers like bake sales, donation requests, garage sales and service projects.
To get involved in next year's holiday effort, call Laura Huff at (254) 939-1816.