‘We live in a very, very special place’

Year-End Reports: Cullman Caring for Kids hits the road in 2021

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Javon Daniel and Nancy Bryant, center, accompanied by community sponsors and supporters, cut the ribbon on CCK’s new mobile food bank in 2021. (Cullman Tribune file photo)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Caring for Kids, an agency devoted to preventing child abuse, had a busy 2021.  With its Court-Appointed Special Advocate program to look after the needs of children in the court system, and its well-known food pantry that fights abuse by lessening the stress on families in need, CCK has had its hands full in two years of COVID shutdowns.

In addition to the challenges, CCK saw new faces and new titles in 2021. Former Assistant Director Nancy Bryant became executive director as long-time Director Javon Daniel stepped aside. Daniel is still with the agency, working more often behind the scenes in support and advisory roles. Westside Baptist Church Pastor Steven Sutter came on board as the new assistant director.

Bryant shared, “Cullman Caring for Kids has had a very good year this year. Even though we still had COVID going on, we were able to help a lot of people…this year we helped almost 5,000 families: that’s families with single person households or multiple person households. In those 5,000 families we helped approximately 12,000 individuals and, as a result of that, we distributed close to 400,000 pounds of food — that’s 400,000 pounds of food! It was a good year!”

“We had several things that made this year for Cullman Caring for Kids United Way food bank very productive. One was the fact that our new assistant director Steven Sutter worked out an agreement with several of most of the schools in Cullman County and City and as a result they brought in over 21,000 pounds of food which equated to about 11 tons. That was a tremendous help because it came toward the end of the year — we did it in November of 2021 — and it was a big, big shot in the arm for us. 

She continued, “Also, we had a very exciting thing that happened this year: we purchased our new mobile food bank, Cullman Caring for Kids Mobile Food Bank, and were able to start that program about midway through the summer. As a result of that, we were able to distribute to about 200 families that may not have been able to come to the food bank to get food. It was a beginning; it was our first year, it was still trial and error about how we were going to do it. I’m sure this year it will be much, much better and will be able to reach more people, but that was exciting for us because it was something new and we actually went out into the communities on Wednesdays. Our food bank is closed on Wednesday, so we were able to go out to areas that were not as accessible to come into the food bank, and we were able to help families in those locations. 

“This year, we took in somewhere close to 470,000 pounds of food and we gave out about 400,000 and, as you can see, this was a tremendous — a very tremendous — expression of help from the community, and we can’t give the community enough credit for all that they did this year to help Cullman Caring for Kids. We live in a very, very special place; it’s called Cullman County, and we are so fortunate and get the greatest satisfaction from helping others in the community that are in need.”

CASA stays busy

CCK’s Court-Appointed Special Advocate program, known to the community as CASA, also had a busy and productive year. 

Bryant said, “Cullman County CASA this year helped over a hundred children that are in the court system for abuse and neglect. For those reasons, they’re in the court system; they’re dependent, been declared dependent by the state of Alabama. And very well screened and background checked volunteers receive about 30 to 40 hours of formal training. Then, once they completed the training and once they have a completed the background check, they are sworn in by our district court judges.

She explained, “Once a volunteer for the CASA program has been sworn in, the judge assigns CASA to a case. That volunteer then goes about the process of investigating the circumstances of the case independently of any other investigations that are or were taking place. They have a court order that allows them to get any information about the child that they are assigned to. Once they have completed their investigation, they do a written report for the judge, and in that report, they specify the facts of the case that they have determined, and they’re required to do two things: one is they have to tell the judge in the report what that child wants if the child is able to tell them; the other thing is they must take the facts of the case and make recommendations to the judge based on those facts as to the best interest of that child. That volunteer becomes the eyes and ears for the judge, but he becomes the most importantly the voice for the child. Our volunteers have no agenda. They are not working for any other agency; they are volunteers to CASA.”

CCK has a new CASA class starting in February. Anyone who is interested can contact CASA Case Manager Candice Lingo at 256-739-1111.

“Kids Matter”

Daniel told the Tribune, “We are about to start the 18th year on the air with “Kids Matter.” “Kids Matter” is a program a radio program that is currently aired on three different stations each week and it’s now it’s hosted by Nancy Bryant our director and myself, and January will start our 18th year. We have talked about things that relate to children and families, and those things have can be very wide in scope.”

Community support makes it work

Bryant shared, “We are so proud of our sponsors. We have had so much help this year from people in this community. There are so many people. I don’t want to leave anyone out. Of course United Way — We are a United Way agency, My Way Trucking, Louisiana Pacific. 

“We want to thank this community for all of the help that they have given to Cullman Caring for Kids this year, because we don’t exist without donations from this community, whether it’s from individuals, churches, civic organizations, companies, corporations. They have all chipped in this year in such a powerful, powerful way I don’t want to leave anyone out that may have helped us this year.

“Churches have been so great this year. We have a group of ladies at Southside Baptist Church that bring us birthday bags to be given out to children and families that have a birthday in the month that they come in, and in this bag, they get a cake mix, icing, sprinkles, party hats and a small gift. But just things like that makes such a big difference in this community. And people are hurting; a lot of things — everything — seems to be going up in price, so even someone with a good paying job sometimes has a hard time making ends meet at the end of the month, so Cullman Caring for Kids is here to help. 

The final word

Bryant concluded, “We’re not here for any other reason but to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that, first of all, no child is ever — this is our mission statement — our mission is that no child will ever be abused, no child will go to bed hungry, and no child will ever be shaken. No baby will ever be shaken in anger, if we can help it. 

“This is just from my heart: nothing is more important than family. Reach out to those that are in need.”

Get involved

If you would like to make a donation to Cullman Caring for Kids, visit https://www.cullmancaringforkids.com/, or call 256-739-1111. You can mail monetary donations to:

Cullman Caring for Kids 

PO Box 698 

Cullman Alabama 35056

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com