Faith Community Church hosts Festividad for Christ

Dean Semelsberger pets the alpaca named Blaze in the petting zoo during the Festividad for Christ holiday event hosted by Faith Community Church in Newhall on Saturday, 121821. Dan Watson /The Signal
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Faith Community Church in Newhall held its annual Festividad for Christ event on Saturday, welcoming hundreds of friends, neighbors and church members to celebrate Christmas. 

The church provided guests a catered lunch by GSC Studio Catering, gifts for children and donated clothes. Additionally, the church hosted a petting zoo for children to interact with goats, sheep, pigs and alpacas. 

The Festividad event was organized with the help of more than 100 family volunteers who helped control traffic and parking, purchase supplies and handed out gifts to families. 

Festividad coordinator Michael Metcalf has organized the event for the past nine of the 16 years that the church has produced the event.  

“The story I’ve been told was the church wanted to come up with a way to bless the community, and the church started with hot dogs, gifts and every year it has grown,” Metcalf said. 

The Christmas event is open to all people from Santa Clarita Valley, and the church invites its neighbors who reside in Newhall. The church wants to let the neighbors who live in the many housing complexes nearby know that the church is here and willing to serve the community, according to Metcalf. 

“A lot of people don’t know we as a church are here because we’re hidden up on this hill, Metcalf said. “So it’s a fun way to bless our neighbors and let them know we’re here.” 

Last year, Festividad was done virtually because of COVID-19 disruptions, and the event usually incorporates a space inside and outdoors. However, this year the event was entirely outdoors, and there were many uncertainties for guest safety and coronavirus safety protocols, according to Metcalf. 

In previous years, the church handed out turkeys for families to have a Christmas dinner, but this year due to disruptions with supplies, the church struggled to find turkeys to give to the community. Instead, the church opted to hand out gift cards to a local grocery store for the families who attended the event.  

Metcalf said in previous years, the event would have 700 guests attend and an additional 200 volunteers; this year, the church had 300 families pre-register, and an additional 300 guests expected to attend with 150 volunteers helping. 

“Everyone we’ve talked to who has been here before loves the event, they love the opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate Christmas together,” Metcalf said. 

Metcalf said he was grateful for the donations from Pepsi Co., California Bakery and Cafe, GSC Catering and the many other sponsors who contributed to the church in spreading the Christmas cheer.  

Cory Gustke volunteered for the hospitality team and has been involved for over a decade, and always feels rewarded for his work. He said that many who are struggling to provide gifts to their kids utilize the event, and the happiness brought to families makes the work all worth it. 

“This is an opportunity for us to bless our community in a really tangible way,” Gustke said. 

Gustke had the love and help from his faith and congregation, and he wants to help those in the community and establish new relationships with the community.  

Pastor Steve Jackson said the event took months in preparation to recruit volunteers, collect donations, wrap gifts and plan for any potential coronavirus restrictions. 

Jackson said the congregation had been blessed, and he wanted his church members to foster the Christian ideals by helping to serve. 

“The truth is, we’re most like Jesus when we’re serving,” Jackson said. “This gives us an opportunity to involve lots of people in our church to serve the community.” 

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