Christmas Baskets

For many years members of the Third Church congregation have provided Christmas dinners to needy families in the Rochester area. In recent years these families have been designated by schools where we have tutoring programs. As our members work together to purchase, pack and deliver food, or when they contribute toward the purchase of turkeys or other holiday treats, many tell us that their Christmas experience has been deepened and become more meaningful.

  • History
  • Adopt a Family
  • Donate
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • FAQ
  • Form

Christmas Baskets - History

Since the late 80’s, when Suzie Kieren was first asked to organize a Christmas Basket program, Third Church has had a tradition of providing Christmas dinners to needy families in Rochester. For many years food was contributed, stored, sorted and packed in the church and delivered on the Sunday before Christmas. Many people also contributed money to purchase items such as bread, produce and non-food items. As time went on, Bill Coons developed an organized method of sorting and packing the food. Rose Pethick chaired the committee and Ned Green volunteered to assist in the organization. For a time there was an “angel tree”; congregational members brought gifts for each child in each family. Eventually it was realized that each family might want to buy their own meat, so TOPs gift cards were substituted where as in earlier years, turkeys and hams were contributed. In recent years, however, TOPs Gift Cards were given to the recipients to allow them to purchase the meat of their choice.

In 2010, it was realized that, because of the remodeling project, there was no room at the church to store and assemble baskets. So the "Adopt-a Family Program" was developed. In 2010 and 2011, recommendations for needy families were received from School #35 , from School #6 and from RAIHN. In 2012 School #6 was closed. The tutoring program moved to School #3 and 30 families were recommended from that school to be assisted in 2012. In 2013, 72 city families from those three sources were given Christmas dinner and in 2014, that number increased to 76. We plan to again provide Christmas Baskets in 2016. Each year a “Mitten Tree” is decorated with clothing requests from the two schools, such as underpants, T-Shirts, mittens, hats and scarves.

Adopt A Family

"Adopting a family" means:

  • Shopping for the food (expense to you: approximately $35)
  • Packing the boxes
  • Delivering the food to the family on the Saturday before Christmas

In addition, the whole congregation is asked to contribute funds to support the purchase of TOPS gift cards and extra food for larger families by those who actually make the deliveries.

Early in December, donor families will receive a letter containing detailed information about their designated family, a list of suggested foods to include in the "basket"̨, a letter from Third Church, and a TOPS gift card. Donor families should plan to purchase food during the following two weeks and to deliver the food on the Saturday before Christmas. Each recipient family will have received a postcard asking them to be home on that day, and they will also have received a reminder phone call from their school or from RAIHN.

Christmas Basket Costs and Donations

How much will this cost? We ask all Church Family Donor/Deliverers to spend about $40 on food, (excluding purchases of turkey or other meat, which the families will purchase using the TOPs gift card.) This amount is the estimated cost for a small family. For medium, large, and extra-large families, we will reimburse your costs over $35 as follows;

  • Small family: spend approximately $45. (No re-imbursement)
  • Medium family: spend approximately $45 (Reimbursed up to $20)
  • Large family: spend approximately $65 (Reimbursed up to $35)
  • Extra-Large family: spend approximately $75 ( Reimbursed up to $50)

Donor/ Deliverers should send their store receipts to Carol Foster at Third Church, who will then send out reimbursement checks.

Or, donors may choose not to be reimbursed, but, if they wish, they may send their receipts to Carol Foster and ask to have their total costs credited as a contribution to Third Church for tax purposes.

IMPORTANT: The whole congregation is requested to contribute funds to purchase TOPS gift cards and to cover reimbursement costs for those families who purchase and deliver food.

However, food donations for the Third Presbyterian Church Food Cupboard are still needed. Bring your food gifts to church each Sunday.

Christmas Basket Schedule - 2017

  • Sunday, November 23 0r 30, 2016:"Focus on Mission" during both worship services
  • Sundays, November 20 through December 11:Volunteer families sign in Celebration Center during Coffee Hour.
  • December ?, 2017: Family Assignments mailed out
  • Through December 15, 2017: Families purchase food and pack baskets
  • Saturday, December 16, 2017: Deliver baskets to families

Christmas Basket Contact Information

For more information, please contact:

Sheila Elliott : Christmas Basket Coordinator

Rev. Lynette Sparks: Associate Pastor at Third Presbyterian Church
(585)271-6513 ext 106

Christmas Baskets - FAQ

Below are some of the frequently asked questions:

Q. How will I know where the family lives?

A. In the mail, you will receive a Family Sheet. At the bottom of the sheet will be the name, address, phone number and the number of people in the family.

Q. How will we know what and how much food to purchase?

A. At the top of the Family Sheet, there is a suggested grocery list for a small, medium, large and extra large family. The size of your family will be designated on the sheet. You may request a particular size family, and we will do our best to honor that request. However, we don’t always know how many of each size family we will be requested to help.

Q. Can I change the list of suggested foods?

A. Yes. However, we have tried to suggest a balanced diet to last for several days.

Q. How much money should I be prepared to spend on the “basket” of food?

A. We ask you to spend at least $45. You may be reimbursed for additional expense or have the total expense credited to the church for tax purposes. Please see COSTS AND DONATIONS on this site. If you still have questions, call
Carol Foster, Business Manager at church, 271-6537 ext 111.

Q. Should we purchase a turkey or other meat when we are filling our box(es.)

A. No. You will be sent a TOPs gift card in the mail with instructions to staple it to the Christmas letter from Third Church.

Q. Should we include gifts for the children in the family?

A. We do not ask you to give gifts and the families have been told not to expect this. However, the schools have included the age and sex of each child. If you want to include a gift, books are always appropriate.

Q. When should I plan to deliver the food?

A. In 2017, the 2nd Saturday before Christmas, between 1pm and 4pm.
(December 16th for 2017)

Q. How do the families know when we are coming to deliver the food?

A. You, the sponsor family, call the family a day or two before delivery to make sure they will be home and arrange a time for the delivery. However, you may find that the phone numbers have been changed or disconnected. In that instance, just go to the address anyway.

Q. I spoke with my family and they cannot be there on the Saturday delivery date. What should I do?

A. Work schedules or appointments sometimes make it impossible for them to be there on Saturday. Please arrange an alternate time with them.

Q. When I went to the address, there was no one there. What should I do?

A. We know that this is a disappointing situation and we have done all we can to avoid it. We suggest that, if possible, you try to call the family and make arrangements to come the next day. If you unable to make arrangements for the food delivery, the food can be brought to Third Church and a committee member will contact the appropriate school and or RAIHN and arrange for the basket to be picked up. (If arrangements cannot be made for pick-up, the food be left with the TPC food cupboard.)

"Adopt-A-Family" Sign-Up Sheet


___ I/we will commit to buying food and delivering a Christmas Basket on
Saturday, December 17, 2016


___ I/we cannot buy and deliver, but will donate money to fund TOPS Gift Cards and reimbursements.
(Please send checks to “Third Presbyterian Church Christmas Basket Fund” at any time throughout December)


Name (please print) ________________________________________________________________


Phone number __________________________


Street & City ______________________________________________ Zip_________


email: _____________________________________________



Please e‐mail this form ASAP to
Sheila Elliott