On Wednesday, Dec. 20, middle and high school students from First Christian Church hand-delivered holiday surprises to local shoppers around town. The pay-it-forward initiative was adapted by the Church as a way to show the true meaning of giving during the holiday’s, as well as help those out in need.

“We want the older kids to get out and about, see their community and see how they can give back,” said Corey Eastman of the E.D.G.E. Youth Program.

Eastman said the original project was a challenge that the group discovered on the web which involved taking a random amount of money, putting the money into envelopes, passing out the envelopes to strangers and then writing a paper about the event afterwards.

The group decided to join in on the project by raising their own funds the first year and the following year the Trustees from First Christian Church pitched in and provided for the project.

“This year is the first year we’ve got some gift cards mixed in with cash donations,” Eastman said.

During Wednesday’s event, both middle and high school E.D.G.E. students gathered at the First Christian Church before splitting up between Perry’s downtown and stores such as Hy-Vee and Shopko.

A total of twenty-five envelopes were given to students before they dispersed them to those within the community.

At the end of the night, everyone meets back at the church to discuss their findings and celebrate the holiday season with a birthday party for Jesus, Eastman said.

The program has made an impact on everyone, Eastman describes.

“It actually let’s them see that there is a need in our community,” Eastman said. “Whether it’s through helping somebody out at The Food Pantry or The Clothes Closet here, or just basically helping open a door – those are the little things that we try to stress that they need to do.”

“They need to help others out.”