More than 1,000 people headed to the Hilldale Baptist Family Life Center in Clarksville Tuesday for a Christmas Eve to remember. Now in its sixth year, Radical Mission's Warm Souls Christmas Eve Celebration is meant as a time to celebrate the season for low and no-income families.
A partnership between the Community of Hope-Church of the Nazarene, Radical Mission Ministry, Hilldale Baptist, and Clarksville businesses, the event offered families a free store, haircuts, vision checks, a family portrait studio and a home-cooked meal.
12-year-old Jon Jones of troop 365 was on the move volunteering at the event. He said being on his feet, working for others, is what he's been taught since day one of scouts.
"The reason I'm here, I'm just helping the community," said Jones. "I'm just like that sometimes. I just want to help people out."
Mom of four, Jayme Akins, said the event changed her life one year ago.
"I was homeless," said Akins. "I had nowhere to go."
Her children staying with family, Akins said she heard about Warm Souls.
"I was able to get Christmas for my kids," Akins explained. "They made you feel like a part instead of an outcast or a charity case. They made you feel like a friend. That Christmas, they made me feel like a person instead of dirt, you know."
"We're changing the face of Clarksville," said Emman Chapman of Warm Souls. "We're becoming a place where people love each other and care for each other."
Her life transforming in just a year, Akins is now working and married.
"I don't have to worry about where I'm sleeping tomorrow night," said Akins. "When I leave here, I'm going home."
Volunteering with the church, Akins said she now shares that same calling to help others as Jones.
"It's just really nice helping the community," said Jones. "It just makes our lives better."
Watching families leave with gifts in hand, Akins said she now understands why volunteers greeted her last year with such warm smiles.
"I have something to smile about now," said Akins. "When you have it, you want everyone else to have it. I thank God every day for them. Hug your family extra close tonight."
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