During this holiday season, we continue our conversation with community and business leaders who are impacting South Florida in profound ways. We want you to get to know them on a more personal level. So this month, Good News Wants to Know…
What was your most meaningful Christmas memory or present?
My most meaningful Christmas memory was, and is, taking my girls yearly to buy our annual Christmas Tree. Over the last 21 years of marriage, we have always bought a ‘live’ tree – Fraser fir – in honor of my wife. The tradition she was raised on is that her dad always bought a tree, so it has been a privilege to continue that over the years and drag our girls out every year to do the same. Even when we had no gifts to give each other as a newly married couple, we always would, and continue, to set money aside to purchase a live tree. Hung many a ‘first’ ornaments on those Frazier fir limbs. Drug the dead tree to the trash after ‘Three Kings Day’ at the close of every Christmas season. Then we smile and laugh at all the time it takes to clean up those needles that seem to mysteriously show up well into February.
– Dennis DeMarois, Director, The Gathering Palm Beach County
One of the most rewarding Christmas celebrations was inviting 20 young people to dinner and to hear my testimony. Some were believers and others were non- believers. After dinner, Kathy and I took them to see the Christmas Pageant at the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale. The first part of the pageant, for those that have not gone before, was about all the festivities surrounding the holiday season with all the trappings of a winter wonderland. Sleigh rides, Christmas trees, holly, snowflakes and the sounds of the season. The second part dealt with the life of our Savior from Birth through the Crucifixion. Watching as the Holy Spirit spoke to those young people on the “fence” so to speak was a wonderful experience. The pageant involved hundreds of members from the church and featured live animals on stage. It was a moving experience for anyone who attended and it appropriately portrayed the sacrifice Jesus made for our redemption. It provided a wonderful venue to further the conversation with many of the young people who attended.
– Andy Mitchell, President/CEO, The Fairwinds Group
My most meaningful Christmas memory was enjoying my first White Christmas with my beautiful beloved bride Gloria .
– Pastor Bernard King, Sr., Cornerstone Bible Fellowship
While we had very little materially our parents succeeded in making our home a place where love was displayed and especially making the Christmas season a time of warmth and celebration. Every Christmas was, especially to my dad, a big deal—decorating the house inside and out and creatively finding gifts that were unique to each of us.
– William C. Davell, Esq., Attorney, May, Meacham & Davell, P.A.
My most meaningful gift came at Christmas in 1964. But, I did not unwrap it completely until Christmas 1968. My mom died in 1964 and I was devastated and became angry. In the Fall of 1968 I came to Christ, and that year Christ unwrapped a great gift in my life. I realized my mom did not die, but graduated to be with the Lord. That is the year all the anger fell away and I am so grateful.
– Dr. Bob Barnes, Chief Executive Officer, Sheridan House Family Ministries
My mom is German and one of her favorite traditions was putting candles (real candles) on our Christmas tree. Every year we’d light them a few nights before Christmas. Somehow our house never burned down. Kudos to my dad’s candle-lighting skills.
– Bob Denison, President, Denison Yacht Sales
One of my most meaningful Christmases was, the first one with my wife. We were both unemployed and broke, but we had Jesus and each other.
– Pastor Daryl Nelson, Calvary Chapel of the Palm Beaches
My most memorable Christmas was coming home from the mission field in the Dominican Republic to be with my Dad, who had cancer, on his last Christmas and his receiving the Lord as his Savior.
– Deborah Cusick, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship FAU Campus Volunteer
I almost lost my father the year before I turned 11 years old. Put on bed rest for nearly a year due to multiple massive heart attacks, he lost his business, and we moved to Florida for warmer weather. That Christmas, finances were gone, we missed our large family up north, but somehow my parents scraped up a few dollars for Christmas gifts. I could hardly let go of my daddy all day. I knew that he and my mother were the best Christmas gifts next to Jesus, that I could have. Very special Christmas.
– Dolores King-St. George, WRMB 89.3 Moody Radio
My most memorable Christmas as a missionary kid growing up in the bush in Nigeria was when I learned how to use a few small wood tools and made a nice coffee table in the shape of Africa for my parents as a gift in grade 7. There were no stores to shop yet my parents would always give us great gifts – to this day I have no idea how they pulled it off. In my case, to see the table I made used every day and hear my parents often tell others where they got the table, imprinted in my mind from that early age how exciting it is to GIVE … even more so than receiving.
– Don Campion, President, Banyan Air
Sauder Christmas morning. Sitting in pajamas on the floor. Tearing open gifts. Belly-laughing. Devouring monkey bread. Jumping into the freezing cold pool. Telling the Jesus Story. A glimpse of heaven.
– Pastor Doug Sauder, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
One of my best memories of Christmas are when my family and I were sitting in the balcony in my church (Christ Church UM) and singing “Silent Night” with the lights dimmed and the candles held up throughout the congregation at the midnight service! Definitely a “thin spot” for me. A time when I was a little closer to God!
– Fred Scarbrough, DVM, Founder, Scarbrough Animal Hospital and Hope South Florida
Christmas has always been a special time growing up in the Caribbean as a child. It was always filled with lots of laughter with family and my mom baking goodies (tarts) in the kitchen. It was never about how many gifts were under the tree; instead it was about sharing, loving and spending time. Oh how I miss those days…..
– Germaine Smith Baugh, Ed.D, President and CEO, Urban League of Broward County
My grown children always bring up how their mom would read Mary’s Dream (about the true meaning of celebrating Christmas) every year and cry. They would say “not again” and now they read it to their children. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus!
– Gita Santangelo, Community Prayer Leader
My most meaningful Christmas memory was the Christmas of 1973. I began Christmas Eve in London, England and concluded it in New York City. On Christmas Day, I was discharged from the United States Air Force. Upon my arrival at Philadelphia International Airport for my flight home, as I was boarding my flight to Minneapolis, I recognized the voice of the flight attendant who asked to see my boarding pass. As fate would have it, she was a dear friend of mine, who lived two blocks away from my family home, and who had graduated from high school with me. I immediately proceeded to pick her up, and to carry her to the back of the airplane. Thankfully, I was not arrested, and thrown off the flight! Those were the days!
– Gregg Sjoquist, President/CEO, The Wasie Foundation
My most meaningful Christmas memory is the tradition of loading all of the kids into a 1938 antique fire truck to buy our Christmas tree and come home and decorate it.
– Gregg Wallick, President/CEO, Best Roofing
I spent one Christmas while our submarine was on deployment in the town of Bremerhaven, Germany. Several of us had unwisely refused the offer of our host nation to participate in a dinner with a local family and we ended up wandering the streets and having Christmas dinner at a gas station convenience store in freezing temperatures. That memory continues to make me appreciate being home for Christmas even as we thank God for the sacrifices of our men and women who can’t be home this year to celebrate our Savior’s birth with their families.
– Representative George Moraitis, Florida House of Representatives, District 93
I was about 10 years old and I finally got my first bicycle. My mother, who never rode a bicycle in her life, did not want me to get one. Somehow after years of pleading, I convinced my father to get me one. Well, I had many accidents but to this date 50+ years later I love riding my bike.
– Ileana M. Gil, MAR, Chief Operating Officer, Trinity International University
One of the most memorable Christmas I ever had was the first one I spent in a tiny town Three Hills in Alberta (Canada). As a young boy seeing snow for the first time during the Holidays made me feel like I was in one of the Christmas movies I used to watch on TV when I still lived in Colombia. There’s just something so special about a white Christmas!
– John Novoa, Financial Associate, Thrivent Financial®
Watching my kids open presents.
– Miguel J. Rodriguez, CPA, PFS, Managing Partner, Rodriguez, Kinzbrunner & Company, LLP
The Christmas I remember as my favorite Christmas was the year I was 16. I had my first job at a clothing store and I earned enough money to buy presents – nice presents – for my mom, my dad, and my brother. That is the year I learned about the joy there is in generosity and experienced the true meaning of “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
– Nancy McDonald, President/CEO, Hope Women’s Centers
Due to my advanced age, my memory serves me wrong and can only remember last year’s Christmas, my most memorable. Last year’s celebration is embedded in my heart….that Jesus was God made in one person so that I may have eternal communion with the Creator. A perpetual memory…….the GIFT that keeps on giving.
– Omar Aleman, Owner, Aleman & Associates
One particular Christmas I had wanted a pair of skis and was really hoping for this present above any other present. Yet, after opening all the presents, I didn’t get the skis and was really disappointed. Feeling hopeless, then my dad responded that my real Christmas present was to go and pick out my own pair of skis together!
– Rob Hoskins, President, OneHope
When I was eleven years old my father bought me an electric train set. Since my father was older when I was born (50) and in ill heath, he passed away when I was younger. It has been many, many years since I have seen him. Every year when I get out that train at Christmas, I remember him and his sacrifice, both for the Lord and for me in getting me that train. It still runs!
– Samuel Lamerson, PhD, President, Knox Theological Seminary
One year, we didn’t have my mom with us on Christmas because of a medical issue, and we thought we would never have another Christmas as family. So, my favorite Christmas was the following one where God healed her and we were all together for the Holidays.
– Scott Baugh, Lead Pastor, Journey Church South Florida
Living overseas for 24 years my Christmas memories with my mom and dad were just being able to spend time with my parents and celebrating the traditions of each country we lived in – what is most memorable to me at Christmas time since my husband and I have been married 33 years, we celebrate our heritages on Christmas eve, alternating from Spanish to Italian, every other year. And on Christmas morning with our son, to this day we always wake up to read the Christmas story.
– Sue Trombino, Founder, Women Impacting the Nation
I have many wonderful Christmas memories of fun family gatherings with lots of laughs and presents. So the Christmas that stands out in contrast to that was when living in Israel as a student. We walked from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on the afternoon of Christmas Eve passing by the rolling fields where the angels would have appeared 2,000 years earlier. Nothing can compare!
– Susan Michael, U.S. Director, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem
I have many meaningful Christmas memories, but the most meaningful was Christmas of 1991 when I got engaged. That was a wonderfully life-altering event!
– Tom Hendriske, Senior Pastor, Rio Vista Church
My most memorable Christmas was the first year that my wife, Linda and I were Foster Parents. We were blessed to be able to provide many gifts for the six girls we were fostering at the time. None of the girls had much of a Christmas before that. So, the memory of their genuine joy when they opened their gifts has stayed with me ever since that Christmas morning — and that was 23 years ago.
– Thomas L. Lukasik, Vice President Community Engagement, 4KIDS
“For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands!!!” (Isaiah 55:12). Being that our family together planted and harvested many Christmas Trees on our NC farm…that memory always brings forth the joy of Christmas to me as those Frasier firs were delivered also to the homes of others! The most Divine memory, however, is of those years of precious moments standing in church, holding candles with our loved ones on Christmas Eve and singing Silent Night! It was those moments that honored Christ and brought him right where He always belongs – into our hearts as the center of our lives – always.
– Virlee S. Stepelton, Ministry Advocate