Updated 11-12-18 12:16 p.m.
Editor's Note: This year’s Christmas Love program already has a full list of children and families and is taking no more applications; donations can be dropped off at the Cullman Caring for Kids office (402 Arnold St. NE Suite W-1 in Cullman). Monetary contributions should be mailed to Christmas Love, Inc., P.O. Box 1172, Cullman, AL 35056.
CULLMAN – Each year, a group of concerned Cullman area citizens works to make Christmas better for needy children and their families through a program called Christmas Love. Cullman Caring for Kids (CCK) Director Javon Daniel and Assistant Director Nancy Bryant sit on the board of the nonprofit program, although Cullman Caring for Kids and Christmas Love are two separate organizations.
Daniel shared with The Tribune: “It’s absolutely incredible. It was started about 25, 26 years ago by Loreen Scott and some other ladies, and when her health got so bad she couldn’t do it, she came to Cullman Caring for Kids and talked to us about it. We helped with the food portion of it the first year, and then she asked us to form a board and continue to do it. And we’ve done so. I’m on the board of directors.
“We average between 150 and 200 children every year that we help with Christmas. We start by buying them a complete set of clothing from top to bottom. And that’s the first thing; that’s our first priority, is to make sure these children have warm clothes: warm coat, socks, underwear, pants, shirts. And then, after that, we start doing the toy part of it. They get a lot of stuff, and most of them- I’d say 99 percent of them- would not have a Christmas without Christmas Love, because Christmas Love, our whole mission is to make sure that children have a Christmas.”
Daniel explained that Christmas Love also helps with whole-family needs.
“And we also, in helping the children, if the family has needs, we try to help with those needs. One year, there was a family that didn’t have any way to cook, and we got somebody that donated a gas stove. And we carried it and set it down; we didn’t hook it up, because we’re not qualified. But had a grandmother one time asked for a straw broom, so I went out that day and bought a straw broom to make sure that family box had it.”
He continued, “It’s an incredible thing. We partner with Toys for Tots. A lot of businesses and individuals will sponsor a child, and they’ll actually buy the Christmas for the child. We have several angel trees around town . . . each ornament has a child’s first name and some of their wishes or hobbies, and they take those tags and they go buy them, and they bring them back to where they picked up the Christmas ornament off the tree, and then we pick it up from there. We partner with the Lions Club. We use the exhibit number one building at the fairgrounds. (We) have great partners that provide the referrals to us.”
Helping parents be the parents
Daniel explained that, while Christmas Love provides for the children, the approach is designed to promote the parents’ dignity and roles as Mom or Dad, right down to how they deliver the gifts.
According to Daniel, “We don’t wrap them–we used to–don’t wrap the gifts. We fix it where the parents get them, and the parents can wrap them. And we tell them, ‘This is from you,’ so the parents have the ownership in their child’s Christmas.”
Worth the effort
Said Daniel, “We’re just absolutely excited about this time of year, because, you know, we really, really, absolutely get to help children have a Christmas. And what I feel is that, when I wake up on Christmas morning, I just imagine each smile. And every bit of the hours, the work, the travel, the going and picking up; it’s worth every bit of that to think of that child smiling on Christmas morning.”
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