CULLMAN, Ala. – As the community enters the season of giving, The Tribune checked in with Cullman Caring for Kids (CCK), one of the area’s most active charities, to see how things are going in the face of the pandemic and often increasing needs this time of the year.
CCK Executive Director Javon Daniel told The Tribune that his agency served 502 families and distributed approximately 30,000 pounds of food in November.
Said Daniel, “Of course, we were closed for the holidays, or we would have done even more than that.”
A typical month at CCK can see more than 600 families served, and many families depend on the agency for ongoing support.
Daniel said in a previous interview, “We’re here all the time, and it’s not a one-time thing. You know, we have people that come in, some- especially those with small children or the elderly- will come in every month. It’s really important for people to understand that the food bank- we can’t just worry about today. We’ve got to worry about tomorrow and the next day, and the next day and the next day. So we always need food: canned food, dry goods, whatever.”
This week, Daniel told The Tribune, “We need whatever people would like to donate. We always need food donations, monetary donations. This time of year, especially, we don’t always get what we need to be giving out, so we do buy more this time of year. So monetary donations are very important.”
Daniel said that CCK especially needs “Dry goods: mac and cheese, pasta, cereal, beans, rice- things like that, that people can use, good staple food for this time of year.”
More than a food bank
When people think of CCK, the term “food bank” often comes to mind, and with good reason: the organization distributes 8 to 10 tons of food per month to families in need. But how does a child advocacy group get into the grocery business?
Daniel responded, “If you have a hungry 2- or 3-year-old child, there’s no food in the house, and you have no idea where that food to feed that child is going to come from, that child is crying, and they’re grumpy and they’re fussy. And if we can prevent one parent from being angry enough to strike that child, then the food bank has accomplished what we set out to do.
“It’s a preventative, it’s a proactive stance. And this happens a lot. Children are abused, especially younger children, when they’re not happy, and the parents have gone to their wits’ end and they just have to do something. We offer the alternative that, ‘Hey, you can come in here and we can give you enough food to last you for several days, to help you past that point.’
“That one child may later wind up in the court system or in the DHR system. And if we can prevent that, that’s what we’re here for.”
CCK’s other programs include:
CASA-Court Appointed Special Advocates
Trained volunteers are assigned to specific cases by courts and conduct independent investigations into cases of abuse, to do whatever is in a child’s best interest.
Daniel described CASA volunteers as “the eyes and ears for the judge, because the judge cannot get out and do that in every case. But, more importantly, I think, is that they become the voice for the child, because children have very little to say about custody cases and abuse cases. It’s just important that they know that they have somebody who, their only purpose is to be there for that child. We don’t work for DHR; we don’t work for the attorneys. We are there as volunteers to help that child to get into a safe, permanent home as soon as possible.”
Radio shows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays address child abuse prevention to a regional market of more than one million potential listeners. Some topics might be uncomfortable to talk about, but Daniel insists that no worthwhile subject is off the table if its discussion can help stop or prevent abuse.
Said Daniel, “Kids do matter, and what they think, and what they’re experiencing, and what they’re going through does matter. What we try to do is we try to talk about children and family issues every week that will help those listeners to get as good information as we can possibly give them about a given situation or subject. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite part, but it’s way up on the list, because I like to talk! But it’s very important.”
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