ST.LOUIS POST-DISPATCH MONDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2001

 “This is crazy to most normal human beings, but why be normal?

If God tells you to do something you’ve just got to do it”

Joan Gieson, whose family holds

an annual Christmas dinner for the needy

 

Shawn Mack loads groceries into her car Sunday at the Gleson family’s 35th mual Christmas dinner at Normandy Middle School. Mack said she was recently laid off from her job. The Gieson family gives away about 100000 pounds of food at the event.

 10,000 people were expected at dinner

BY Elizabethe HOLLAND

Of the Poet-Dispatch

As families lining long ta­bles gobbled up ham, mostac­cioli and Chinese food, and Santa Claus listened to wishes that probably wouldn’t come true, 10-year-old Joanie Lillie navigated the hubbub while holding hands with her new charge.

Her charge Was a 40-year-old woman Joame had met while answering the phone for her grandmother’s ministry. The woman seemed oblivious to the ruckus surrounding her Sunday at Normandy Middle

School blaring holiday mu­sic, children in search of free toys, mothers wondering where to pick up blankets and boxes of free groceries.

The woman, who asked that her name not be used, had plenty to fret about, as did many of the thousands of peo­ple who came Sunday to the Joan Gieson family’s 35th an­nual Christmas dinner for the needy. But for one day, she seemed too touched to care about the reasons that had brought her there.

“It’s beautiful, really, for the people who honestly need it, the people who just fell on hard times,” said the woman, who recently lost her job and home. “It’s a blessing that someone would look deep down in their hearts to help those who need.”

See Giesons, C2

Giesons

Family helps thousands

make it through season

Continued from Cl

In her case, the most outstand-mg example of this was Joanie, who when answering the phone for Joan Gieson Ministries of Love said she would write a note alongside the woman’s name, asking her grandmother and oth­ers to pray for her. When the woman showed up Sunday with her 3-year-old son for the event,

Gieson’s directions to Joanie were clear.

 “I want you to help your homeless friend,” she said, star-big intently into Joanie’s eyes. “I want you to walk her through the system and give her anything she wants.”

 While Sunday marked the first Gieson Christmas dinner the woman had attended, her story wasn’t unusual given the crowd there. Many of the dinner-goers were regulars at the annual event. And many would be hard-pressed to put Christmas dinners on their tables or give toys to their children were it not for Gieson’s generosity and tre­mendous ability to bring out charity in others.

While Gieson, of Bellerive Acres, was none too pleased to find that the business she thought was going to provide chicken for the dinner had failed to show, she was ecstatic over the thousands of pounds of food and drink that area businesses had provided. And she was not the least bit concerned that any of her anticipated 10,000 guests would go without.

 “The halls are full, the cafete­ria is full, the parking lot is full, the street is full,” Gieson said. “But Jesus will provide.

 “This is crazy to most normal human beings, but why be normal?”

 she added. “If God tells you to do something, you’ve just got to do it.”

 The woman in Joanie’s care was just one example of Gieson’s dedication and conviction. Her young son had a full tummy, wore a beard of cake crumbs and frosting and had been given a toy to take with him. Joanie, meanwhile, wore a small, tin pin with a picture of an angel on it. The woman, her new friend, had bought it for her.

 “I will never forget ... her kindness and her encourage­ment,” the woman said. “And she’s just 10 years old.”

 

 Reporter Eu Holland: