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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders opened a press briefing Thursday afternoon by sharing the story of the church’s efforts to assist local families during the Christmas season.
Sanders said, “Now, with Christmas season in full swing, I want to shine a spotlight on some of the incredible stories of generosity and love that show what the Christmas spirit and the American spirit are all about. Today, I’d like to start with a story of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling, West Virginia.”
St. Matthew’s donated almost $5,000 to make the final payments on toy layaways for Ohio County families at the Wal-Mart store at The Highlands. A Wal-Mart zone manager said about 50 accounts were paid off with the church’s gift.
Relating the source of the funding, Sanders said, “Over 100 years ago, a young girl tragically died around the Christmas season and her family donated money to the church in her honor and asked the money be used for children at Christmas. What they may not have realized at the time was that this act of kindness in the midst of incredible heartache would bless countless children for the next century.”
For this project, St. Matthew’s used interest income from the church’s Scott-Hood Fund, an endowment fund that is designated for providing Christmas gifts to Ohio County children who are in need. The fund was established a century ago by U.S. Sen. Nathan B. Scott and his wife in memory of their daughter, Daisy, who died at a young age.
Later, a gift from the Hood family was added to the endowment, which then was renamed the Scott-Hood Fund.
The Scotts also gave a Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass window to the church to honor their daughter’s memory. Scott, a Republican, represented West Virginia in the U.S. Senate from 1899 to 1911. He was involved in glass manufacturing in Bellaire and Wheeling and was a founder of Dollar Savings and Trust Co., a predecessor of WesBanco.
“St. Matthew’s continues helping children and families during the Christmas season,” Sanders said. “They usually do it anonymously, but word of their generosity spread through social media this year.”
She told the White House press corps, “There will be so many acts of generosity and kindness that go unnoticed this Christmas season, and that’s OK. St. Matthew’s Church wasn’t looking for credit and neither are so many others, but these stories are important because they remind us what the season is all about, and that’s the greatest gift of all.”
The Rev. Mark E. Seitz, St. Matthew’s rector, said the parish’s outreach chair worked with the store’s zone manager to identify qualifying recipients. He said the gift was meant to be anonymous, but word got out inadvertently and the story was shared on Facebook. The Episcopal News Service and an online site, The Episcopal Cafe, also picked up on the story.
A White House representative called Seitz on Tuesday to get more information on the Christmas project that Sanders planned to spotlight.
Every year, money from the Scott-Hood Fund is allocated to buy gift cards for teenagers from Ohio County families served through St. Matthew’s food pantry and Christmas distribution project. This year, about 50 families are being assisted in the church’s Christmas distribution.
In addition, interest income from the fund is being used to purchase Christmas gifts for boys at the Children’s Home of Wheeling and for girls in Crittenton Services’ residential program in Wheeling this year.