Three years ago, Shavertown United Methodist Church hosted a holiday charity concert called Christmas with a Twist. The event was hosted by Making a Difference Ministries, a group of Christian musicians from churches all over Northeast PA, that perform each year to help provide for local charities.
At that time, the musical ministry group had only six members and performed only once. On Sunday Dec. 2, the church hosted the same group, now 18 members strong and performing five concerts at five locations for five different charities.
The event drew a crowd of over 50 people and the performers and the audience brought donations of toiletries for Ruth's Place, an emergency shelter for homeless women in Luzerne County.
The group has six vocalists, including John Bunney and Barbara Roberts, both from the Back Mountain. Kingston Township Police Officer Frank Ziegler plays drums and Brian Carlson from River of Life Church plays percussion instruments. The group performed 20 holiday songs, both classic Christmas and Christian style.
It's nice because everyone gives their time for free and they don't expect anything in return, said Stephen Perillo, president of Making a Difference Ministries.
Perillo's wife Gail makes all arrangements and schedules charities for each event. Perillo said the group tries to schedule a different charity for every event so it can help as many groups as possible.
This year's ministry had 18 members representing seven churches from all over the Back Mountain and Wilkes-Barre areas, including members of Shavertown United Methodist, Huntsville Christian Church and River of Life Church in Lehman.
Christina Shimp, from Huntsville Christian, served as co-director for this year's performance. It was her second year performing with the group. She plays the flute for the band and performed a beautiful rendition of Christmas Time is Here, best known as the theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
We do a musical ministry, said Bunney. There are a lot of songs that have a lot of good messages.
Bunney and Roberts both attend Shavertown United Methodist and both sing in the Step by Step band as well as with Making a Difference Ministries.
There's a lot of fellowship, Bunney said. We make new friends and acquaintances.
Plus we live to sing, Roberts added.
Perillo said when he started the group three years ago, people were very skeptical. He said the idea of members of different churches working together was strange to many people and some even thought they were trying to influence patrons to transfer churches. But in the last few years, he has seen this musical ministry grow to reach out and help the community together.
We are glad to be one unified group to help everybody out, said Perillo.