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Church serves as home away from home for sailors on Christmas Day

Navy recruits North Point Church families are ready for dinner church Winthrop Harbor Sunday. | Joe Shuman~Sun-Times Media

Navy recruits and North Point Church families are ready for dinner at the church in Winthrop Harbor on Sunday. | Joe Shuman~Sun-Times Media

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North Point Christian Church was one of 12 organizations in the Chicago area to participate in the Adopt-a-Sailor program. More than 1,000 recruits at Naval Station Great Lakes participated in the program. Recruits whose families were unable to visit for the day were eligible to participate.

Source: Naval Station Great Lakes

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Updated: February 24, 2012 1:41AM

Until six years ago, Christmas morning in the Bychowski household consisted of the four children unwrapping their gifts.

John Bychowski of Beach Park wanted to expand the holiday celebration so his children got more depth. That’s when he and his wife Michelle started hosting sailors stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes at North Point Christian Church.

“I wanted my kid to realize what Christmas is about, giving and serving,” Bychowski said. “Now, everybody is helping. Every year, somebody else step up to help and the sailors love it. We’re really trying to give them a nice environment.”

The church hosted about 80 sailors Sunday. There was a Christmas feast, video games, movies, karaoke, and computer stations so recruits could go online. There were cell phones available so sailors like Corey Chancey of Orlando could call home.

He said the phone call home was his favorite part.

This was his first Christmas away from home.

“I thought (Christmas Day) would be just staying in barracks doing nothing all Christmas. It’s very good, a good break from base for the day,” Chancey said.

Kasey Hamilton of Zion could relate to spending the holidays away from home. He spent 21 years in the Navy and is one of the volunteers who helps run the church’s annual event for the sailors.

“My first Christmas (with the Navy) was in boot camp,” Hamilton said. “It was emotionally hard. You remember past times with your families.”

While stationed in San Diego, he spent a Christmas in the barracks. He was looking out the window when he saw a residence with Christmas tree and lights.

“That’s when it hit me (that) I miss my family so much,” Hamilton recalled. “It’s about Jesus Christ — that’s what the holiday is about. I tell them (sailors) that.”

Hamilton and several other church members mingled with the sailors throughout the day. The event was open to people in the community who did not have particular holiday plans as well as for the sailors, Bychowski said.

“The biggest joy we get out of this is the fellowship with the church,” Bychowski said.

The event served about 25 recruits the first year, Michelle recalled. It started with her family running the event and has grown to include contributions from several other individuals, she said.

“I felt like we ended up receiving more than we gave,” Michelle said. “I really enjoy the interaction with each other.”

The chance to relax was wonderful, said sailor Jesse Byrd of Dallas, Texas.

“This has been one of the better things to come out of boot camp,” Byrd, 20, said.

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