ASHTABULA — John Salters called 10 children to the front of the GO Community Development Corp. gymnasium and the number quickly doubled.
Salters, founder of G.O. Ministries which has grown into the new title, fired up the children by singing a loud rendition of “Jingle Bells” on Saturday afternoon at the organization’s headquarters on Station Avenue.
“I love Jesus, yes I do, I love Jesus how about you,” quickly echoed through the recently renovated gymnasium. Salters also got the parents and other children into the act by responding to the chant.
An estimated 400 children attended the event and received Christmas gifts, said GOCDC President Drew Thomas. He said a total of 600 people were expected for the party which was centered in the gymnasium, but also included the cafeteria where people were fed to start off the 22nd edition of the event.
“Each child will get at least three presents,” Thomas said of the gifts that were donated or purchased by the organization.
“We bought a lot of the presents. Good quality presents,” Thomas said of the Tonka trucks, dolls and Legos the children were able to take home.
The families were served in the cafeteria and moved into the gymnasium that was decorated for the Christmas party and freshly renovated with new LED lights thanks to the efforts of the Herzog Family Foundation. Thomas said a plaque was presented during the party to commemorate the group’s efforts.
Thomas said Cristal employees repainted many of the rooms and prepared one for a new purpose and the Ashtabula Foundation provided funds for a new oven.
The organization is active throughout the year feeding families and providing opportunities for recreation and education. “We’ve served over 13,000 meals at our soup kitchen this year,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the organization has also brought Birthcare into the building to distribute baby supplies for young families in need. “We are trying to get as many organizations to join us at the building,” he said.
A multiple-piece band led the music keeping hands clapping and toes tapping throughout the gymnasium.
“This is our third year coming. The children enjoy all the festivities,” said Gina Withrow of Conneaut.
Nikki Dondrea, of Ashtabula, said the party was her family’s first, but probably not the last. “They cater to the children,” she said.