Seated in the first row of pews at the Hilltop Christian Center, a group of children buzzed with excitement.
Just out of reach, a rainbow of plastic eggs littered the floor.
As they listened to a message about the significance of Easter, the children stole glances at the eggs, pointing to ones they hoped to stuff into their plastic bags.
Moments later, as music blared, the children were set loose.
They dove to the floor, scooping as many empty eggs as possible into shopping bags, plastic bins and baskets. Once those were filled, they shoved eggs into pockets, hats and even down their shirts.
Screams and squeals rang out as the children crawled through the sanctuary of the church located at the corner of South 10th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.
“We know where a lot of these kids come from. For a lot of them, it’s really dark,” said church Pastor Pana Mamea. “It means a lot to us, in that we’re able to be a light.”
Held the Saturday before Easter, the church’s annual egg hunt allows families to have fun and put away their worries, if only for a short time, Pana Mamea said.
“We’ll go back to the day-to-day tomorrow,” he said.
It touches the heart and the soul of the person. They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.
Pastor Tai Mamea, Hilltop Christian Center
Relishing the children’s excitement and anticipation, his wife, Pastor Tai Mamea, said the egg hunt epitomizes the church’s mission to unite the community.
“It touches the heart and the soul of the person,” Tai Mamea said. “They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”
In years past, the church held its egg hunt at nearby People’s Park, but this year hundreds of plastic eggs were scattered throughout the church.
Children exchanged the eggs for goodie bags filled with candy.
Laughing and pointing to eggs from the sidelines, Vanessa and Jesse Lamelo Sr. appeared to be having as much fun as their six children.
The family, whose children range from 5 to 13 years old, live in transitional housing and recently joined the church.
The church and its familial atmosphere have been a blessing, Vanessa Lamelo said.
“This is the first time I’ve seen them this excited about an Easter egg hunt,” she said. “I like to see my kids happy.”