Oakhurst family opens hearts and home on Christmas Day

Children from about a dozen area families found themselves eating chili, sipping hot chocolate, nibbling cookies, riding ponies, and receiving a present Christmas day thanks to the big hearts and generosity of the Prentice family of Oakhurst.

This is the third year the Prentice family - Jay, Lori, and children, Ginger, 8, Tim, 10, and Melanie, 12, have spent their Christmas day providing for children who may not have otherwise experienced the joy of Christmas - and what better way to put a smile on a child’s face than receiving a new toy, and a ride on adorable Stardust, Night Fury, or Hermione.

Jay Prentice makes chili for their guests as Lori leads children around the yard on ponies adorned with jingle bells. The Prentice children introduce themselves to ll the children and spend time with them exploring the property.and make them feel welcomed.

The Prentice family, who has transformed a bedroom in their Pierce Drive home into a small apartment for those who have found themselves temporarily without a home, was featured in the Sierra Star on March 21, 2013. Jay and Lori have operated a homeless ministry out of their own home, bringing complete strangers into their home. Lori published a book, “The Best Dinner I Never Ate,” that has inspired others to do what they can about the growing child homeless population across the country.

Lori said community members have supported their Christmas day effort by bringing chile and presents to the house.

“Some people drove 40 minutes to deliver chili and cornbread for the event,and others dropped off gifts at my home or church for the children,” Lori said. “And several people came to volunteer and brush the muddy horses, clean off tables and keep the chili from running out while we gave pony rides well into the dark.”

Lori said she couldn’t imagine a Christmas without the Oakhurst community.

“It has put real people into our faith,” Lori said. “Christmas isn’t just a time to open presents and sing songs with hand-picked friends and family. It’s a time to realize we all have something to offer - even just our presence.”

Her daughter Ginger said it is nice to share the families ponies with people who need a little happiness, especially on Christmas day.

“It makes me feel good that I’m helping people that need it, and I end up making lots of great friends,” said Ginger.

Ginger’s brother Tim said it made him happy knowing he is doing something nice for someone else.

“It makes their day shine,” Tim said.

Twelve-year-old Melanie learned, that even on Christmas, to think of somebody else and not yourself.

“There was a woman in a tent on Christmas Eve and we all put on our jackets in case we needed to go find her,” Melanie said. “I would have given her my bed in a heartbeat because she's sleeping outside in the very very cold but it turns out she found a place for that night.”

Jay said the day was about being able to give back to the community and to help out those in need.

“It’s like staying in touch with the Christmas spirit - the spirit of giving and loving your neighbor,” Jay said.

Megan Wrann and her three children, Eli, 5, Addi, 7, and Isaac, one and a half, recently moved to Yosemite Lakes Park from St. Augustine, Fla.

“I wanted to do something special with the children for Christmas and then I heard about what this special family was doing,” Megan said. “This was amazing - the children loved the chance to ride a pony. Lori, her husband, and children welcomed us like we were family. I’m very thankful for what they have done.”

“We make it clear to the guests, that though many times we do have gifts for all the children, the biggest gift of all is spending time with family,” Jay said.