Angel donates handmade Nativity figures


The kneeling mother Mary and baby Jesus in the manger, which was donated to the Casco Village Church to replace the two figures that were stolen, blend harmoniously with the other figures and have a meaningful history. (De Busk Photo)

The kneeling mother Mary and baby Jesus in the manger, which was donated to the Casco Village Church to replace the two figures that were stolen, blend harmoniously with the other figures and have a meaningful history. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Biblical promises came to life during this Christmas season.

Plus, gifts were exchanged in a manner of speaking.

A Maine woman was able to revive the wooden nativity pieces hand-painted decades ago by the great-grandmother of one of her students in the faith-based preschool she established in Limington.

At the same time, the members of a rural church received the figures of a kneeling Mary and the baby Jesus in a manger to complete its outdoor nativity scene in time for Christmas Eve services in Casco.

Earlier in December, at the Casco Village Church United Church of Christ, parishioners noticed something was missing. The baby Jesus and mother Mary had been taken from the crèche, located outside the church and facing Route 121.

“Mary and baby Jesus — hand-painted many, many years ago by a church member, were more than just decorations,” according to Pastor Joyce Long.

Replacing the pieces was a task that could not be avoided, she said. However, when the thoughtful donation was made, the common sentimentality between what was taken and what was given is remarkable.

Elaine Gammon, the Limington resident who donated the nativity figures, penned the history of the pieces in a letter to the Casco church.

Essentially, she started a school 21 years ago. One of the students was Ben Wood, whose mother, grandmother and great-grandmother ran The Spare Time Gift Shop.

This spring, Gammon closed the doors of the 123-ABC Nursery School and purchased the gift shop for her part-time job during retirement.

Gammon bought the gift shop, which had closed its doors with inventory locked inside years ago.

“I unwrapped all the items; and among the many wooden pieces was a beautiful nativity set that by the appearance of the paint, I realized had been done many years ago. I gently displayed it outside the shop, but to my dismay, not one person was the least bit interested in it,” Gammon wrote.

“I was sorely disappointed and brought it back inside out of the elements,” she wrote, adding, “It was on my mind and I couldn’t believe that no one had even asked about it.”

“As I was watching the news (last) week, I heard your story about the theft of part of the Nativity set that had been displayed for years at your church,” Gammon said. “Immediately, my thoughts went to the set that I had and knew that a call was inevitable. I knew where it belonged.”

Gammon contacted two of the family members who formerly owned The Spare Time Gift Shop and mentioned the items she was planning to donate to the Casco Church.

“It was at that time that I learned who the artist was and a chill ran through me as I realized why this Nativity set had not been sold by them or by me. It was destined for a place as close to God as it could come,” she said.

“Twenty-One years ago, in 1994, the ABC-123 Nursery School began at 125 Gammon Road in Limington, Maine. It ran successfully, tending to all the needs of the children in all the surrounding towns. ‘Miss Elaine’ was well known among many households, and still is today, as I remain a daycare provider for a few neighboring children,” Gammon’s letter began.

“My first year was about giving the community a service that no other centers had. It was a church-based program that I had used for 15 years prior while teaching at a local church. Although it was not a religiously-taught program, the foundation was there and it ran in that form for the entirety of the school’s life,” she said.

“Six children attended that first year and one little boy, Ben Wood, was a member of that class. His great-grandmother, grandmother and mother were beginning a small enterprise of their own — The Spare Time Gift Shop of Limington, which made its debut around this same time. The shop was filled with handmade items all created by these three women in their spare time and sold to the public,” she said.

“Among the items crafted were hand-painted Nativity sets, one of which has now been donated to your community church in Casco,” she said.

“The eldest of the three women, Betty, now deceased, had painted this set by hand. The pieces were cut, sanded and painted by family members. Betty sold many of these sets, but this one last set remained in the inventory,” Gammon wrote.

Her letter ended, saying: “Blessings to the Gammon, Brown and Wood family. Also, blessings to your congregation and blessings to a broken Nativity that has now been made whole.”

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