The first Noel

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Featured

Published on December 21, 2011 with No Comments

As Christians worldwide celebrate the season with gatherings and fellowship, there is still room for new traditions.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Valparaiso decided to celebrate the Nativity with a two-day event of fellowship, of joyous singing and of mixing with friends, old and new.

Kaye Lynn Beeler was the chairman of the event.

Her qualifications, simply, were that she was willing to do it and able to do it as she had participated in such an event while in Texas.

Like most great leaders, she quickly defers any accolades to the chairmen of all the committees, saying it was truly a group effort that incorporated church members from across the district. It included some non-members as well, folks caught up in the excitement of the celebration.

At the end, there were 335 Nativities displayed onsite, with 75 holiday trees, 139 poinsettias more than 700 guests (not counting some musicians that did not sign the guest book when they played), and a carload of comment cards coming soon to the official blogsite, along with hundreds of pictures.

The volunteer army put in more than 50 work hours and four days to set it up. Thanks to the great volunteer effort, it only two three-and-a-half hours and many willing hands to break it back down.

With donated items they have a nice start for 2012. It is understood it is already scheduled for the next yuletide season.

“I actually had seen a couple of these events in Texas and had helped with them,” Beeler said.

“I decided it might be a good opportunity to do it here. Since I had the information, I was the organizer. The committee was something I was very passionate about.”

Her unbounded joy easily brought other folks aboard.

“I’ve always thought, if you start with a positive outlook, even if other people don’t know what it is you are doing, it will work out,” Beeler said.

“So I got notes from people in charge in Texas. I picked their brains on what worked and what didn’t. We organized and everyone was also quite passionate about it. Once we had the first meetings and started talking it up, everyone kept joining.”

The volunteer chair was Bev Depra; the decorating chairs were Liz Egolf and Stephanie Humphrey; the inventory chair was Patty Black; the music chair was Jodie Ames; the activity room chairs were MaryKay Goehl and Sarah Burgess; the excellent publicity chair was Beth Thompson; the poinsettia coordinator was Margie Fox; and the art coordinator was Marianne Reach.

Among the church representatives, the high council representative/security was Dale Tipton; the Chicago Heights ward representative was Rosie Heske; the Griffith 1 Branch ward representative was Karen Feges; the Griffth 2 Branch ward representative was Celia Fernandez; the Hebron ward representative was Nancy Burress; the LaPorte ward representative was Kelly Crone; the Michigan City branch representative was Pam McNeal; the Rensselaer branch representative was Charlene Kelly; and the Valparaiso ward representative was Fetoai Parker.

“So, you see, it was a big committee,” Beeler said.

“Since our church is so widespread, from Chicago Heights to LaPorte, Jodie Ames contacted all the units to see how much musical talent they could round up in their units.

Among the performers: Christina  Holk; Virginia and Samantha Sayler; Conrad Ault; Jacob Cook; Maddie Pyke; Mylese Tucker; Stacy Andrew; Chloe Andrew; Liz Hernandez; Laura, Brooklyn, and Autumn Smith; Caitlyn Tanner; Brendan Tanner; Kaitlyn Walker; Mary Kay, Kimber, and Bruce Goehl; Carly Dekock; Barb Kintner; Dave and Rachel Mathews; Luis Hernandez; Kathryn, Alexandra, Isabella and Jacob Reed; Don Jones; Sara Daulton; Kelly Daulton; Julia Anderson; Hayley Overmyer; Joan, Richard, Jen and Kyle Scroggin; Michelle Harbich; Michelle Brown; Nicholas, Dwight, Emily and Sarah Ames; Ashley Riegle; Jacob Martin; Josh Claussen; Jeremiah Penney; Elder Oliver; Elder Lippert; La Porte Ward Choir: Joan and Richard Scroggin, Jen and Kyle Scroggin, Michelle Harbich, Michelle Brown, Nicholas Ames, Dwight Ames, Sarah Ames, Emily Ames, Ashley Riegle, Jacob Martin, Jeremiah Penney, Elder Oliver, and Elder Lippert; Valparaiso Ward Young Women; Valparaiso Stake Primary Children (more than 40 children, ages 3-11); Griffith Ward Primary Children (more than 20 children, ages 3-11); Renaissance Recalled – a recorder group: Judy Kirby, Elaine Gilles, Marilyn Bojanowski, John Bremer, Geoff Eysenbach, Caryn Lowther, Gae Mollin; South Central School Quartet: Sarah Ames, Ashley Riegle, Jacob Martin, Josh Claussen; ‘Not Quite Ready for Prime Time Brass: Steve Strains, Dave Turoci, Tom Cushing and Dean Hunter, trumpets, Jim Swanson, tuba, Julie Barney, euphonium, Sandy Boyer, french horn; Harmony Bell Ringers – a bells choir directed by Linda Haddix.

“The response for was amazing,” said Ames. “The music was simply awesome. We look forward to doing this again next year.”

Beeler added: “Then, some performers came who were non-members or were in some of our groups by not necessarily members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“In fact, one children’s choir, 45 members mostly from Valparaiso, they were so good. I listened and I was really impressed,” Beeler said.

“We had one last-minute violinist who was really good. His mother was helping us decorate and asked if we still had any openings as her son could play the violin.

“ ‘My 10-year-old son plays quite well.’ she said.

“I didn’t know what to expect. Wow. He played a couple of times and I’m thinking here’s this 10-year-old, unafraid and pretty good,” Beeler said.

So the successes, large and small, built upon each other.

“The crowds were unexpected,” Beeler said. “We had word-of-mouth and some read about it in the paper. They just kept coming. I was amazed by the amount of people.

“We had several goals,” Beeler said. “The first of those was to give our members a chance to be of service to their communities.

“We contacted as many church members as possible. We had a system. It was done carefully. For the most part, our church organized it, but they came from everywhere.

“For example, we have a Spanish branch in Griffith and that was one representing a really interesting interpretation of the Nativity.  We had chefs prepared edible Nativities for display

“A Hebron member has collected hundreds of Nativities and she let us borrow 27 international ones for the display.”

At the end, Beeler said. “I was excited and not under any anxiety at all. We had a great team and they did their jobs. A couple of time, maybe I was worried in advance, but we stayed organized and got hundreds of comment cards; all are very positive, everything was very positive.”

Among the special visitors was a local extended care home which brought three residents in wheelchairs.

On of them took the time to tell Beeler she had never expected to get out this holiday season and here she was. She said, “This has really made her Christmas,” Beeler said.

You can’t define success any better than that.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Valparaiso is at 503 Burlington Beach Road. For more information on the church and its projects, call 219-531-6902 or visit the national website at

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the

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