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Recently, a shopper was at a local store to buy gifts for Seth’s Hope, an angel tree that honors her son, the late Seth Muennich.
Once the items were rang up, Lisa Muennich said they totaled $99.70.
Someone else in the store that day, she said, knowing what was going on, came over and handed the shopper $100 to pay for the purchases.
Love, Lisa Muennich said, is contagious 365 days a year.
“How else can you explain it?” she said. “Whenever there has been a need, God has stepped up to meet it.”
Now in its third year, Seth’s Hope is making sure that 110 children and 43 families tied to the Buford schools have a merry Christmas.
Seth’s Hope is an outgrowth of Seth’s Giving Tree, a foundation whose mission is to impact the future by helping instill the Christian values of faith, hope, love, integrity and generosity in teens ages 12 to 16. The foundation was formed after the death of Lisa and Ken Muennich’s son, Seth.
Regarded as an all-around good kid and athlete, Seth died Sept. 29, 2011, after he was struck by a car in front of Buford Middle School. He was returning to Buford High School for a jayvee football game.
The giving tree has also formed a partnership with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to award scholarships for local athletes to attend the FCA Multi-Sport Camp in Black Mountain, N.C.
Beginning in 2015, the foundation will award college scholarships to high school seniors in Lancaster County, which would have been Seth’s senior class. Much of its fundraising comes from the Bear Hug Brawl, an annual football jamboree for junior varsity football teams and cheer squads in the county.
The low-key angel tree is led by the Unity ARP Church youth, but they aren’t going it alone.
Lisa Hallman coordinates the effort, which included more than 150 youth from 13 churches this year.
Some of its funding is also generated through private donations and dress-down days at Buford Middle School, where Seth’s brother, Tanner is an eighth grader.
Families ministered to through Seth’s Hope, she said, are recommended by the administrators and faculties of Buford Elementary, Middle and High schools.
“Sometimes what you see... it makes you cry,” she said.
“They need to know they are not forgotten and that somebody cares. It’s about making the difference and putting smiles on faces. A little bit of hope is what its all about.”
Lisa Muennich said while the angel tree collects food and gifts for those in need, it also changes the lives of the youth who volunteer.
“They love being together, after last year’s event the youth groups wanted to continue to meet throughout the year,” she said.
“Now, the church youth groups meet once a month at one of the hosting churches for a time of fellowship, praise and worship with music and a speaker.”
The teens spent much of Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15, wrapping gifts and packing food boxes. The day wrapped up with a time of fellowship, praise and worship.
“This is important to me because this is what God would want me to do,” said McKenzie Marvin of High Point Freewill Baptist Church. “This is something I enjoy doing. If you volunteer, this is such a blessing. You never know how you can touch someone’s life."
Lauren Watson of Hopewell United Methodist Church, echoed McKenzie’s sentiments.
“The Christmas season is about giving,” she said. “If you volunteer, this is such an uplifting experience. These children might not get a Christmas without this organization.”
“Some people aren’t as privileged and we need to help them the best way we can,” said Hallie Carroway of Zion United Methodist Church.
Hallman said the Seth’s Hope angel tree has become a life lesson for everyone involved.
“By just getting in there and helping, the kids see its not about them at all, but about serving,” she said.
We maintain strict confidentiality. When families come in for the pick-ups, we ask the parents not to bring their children because some of the kids may recognize them. We don’t ever want them to know who is on the angel tree.
“It’s probably the most humbling thing I’ve ever been part of.”
Those 150-plus teens who spent much of Dec. 18 wrapping gifts and packing food boxes for 110 families didn’t know who they were for, but that doesn’t matter.
God knows, and that’s all that matters.
Just ask Lisa Muennich.