Thanksgiving Night In Cheektowaga

At 9pm on Thanksgiving night, a group of people from The Chapel at Cheektowaga were standing in a circle, praying for those who would work the overnight shift at the Walden Galleria mall that night. Weeks before, news broke that the mall would open to shoppers on Thanksgiving at 6pm. That decision drew some media attention, but it also drew our attention as an opportunity to connect with store employees.

It's a tough gig having to leave the family gathering, fight off the sleepy effects of turkey consumption, and report to work for an all-nighter. So some dedicated volunteers from the Cheektowaga Campus set out to create some Black Friday survival baskets to bless those store employees. The baskets included bottles of water, trail mix, fruit, cookies, granola bars, a Thanksgiving card, some information about our church, and of course, some bottles of Five Hour Energy to help them through the night.

At 9:30pm, they arrived at the mall and split up to deliver these baskets to store employees. Our goal was simply to say "Happy Thanksgiving from The Chapel." We didnt want to be an interruption to their work, but to simply say that we care and we're here. We had the chance to deliver over 20 of these baskets, and they were received incredibly well! Here's some of the feedback from the team that went:

"When we walked into The Gap, the employee we asked to speak to a manager gave us a funny look (I'm pretty sure it was due to the gift basket). When the manager came out she looked a little frazzled and distracted. She even cut me off while introducing myself to listen to her headset. Once I explained why we were there her whole attitude changed. She pulled her head set off and with a big smile on her face, asked me to tell her who we were again. A few employees came over to thank us and we invited them to come to the Regal. A few told us about where they went to worship. It was very inspirational to see how just a small gesture of kindness could mean so much. I will definitely continue this not just throughout the holiday season, but year round."

"It was very inspirational to see how just a small gesture of kindness could mean so much."

"We not only presented the baskets to the managers, but gave hugs to the entire team at one store. One female employee indicated that it was her birthday and we got to sing to her before our departure. Everyone was delighted, receptive, and exhibited big smiles. Since they were already smiling, I expressed to each individual, "Smile- Jesus loves you!" No one responded negatively, and at least two people affirmed their knowledge of Jesus' love for them."

"When we were walking in the parking lot, a younger man was eyeing up our baskets and giving us a curious look. We told him all about who we were and how we were from the Chapel at Cheektowaga delivering baskets to various stores. He told us how he thought that was great and was hoping a basket was going to be delivered at Zumiez because that's where he would be working! He also told us that he might come check us out at the movie theater one Sunday morning! A worker in one of the other stores told us we made her day when we handed her the basket. When she told us, that ended up making our day!"

"How does multiple thank you's from the managers and staff, along the with the biggest smiles that would touch anyone's heart sound? We had the opportunity to answer questions and extended the invitation to join us on Sundays at 9:15am! Being an Usher for years, I've shared handshakes and smiles with hundreds of people, but delivering these baskets goes to the top of the list."

It was an exciting opportunity for our Cheektowaga Campus to engage the stores around them!

Jon Cook

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