By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
Organizers of the Christmas Love charity have come to recognize Cullman as a community that knows how to answer the call for good works — whether during the holiday season or year round — and they’re hoping this year simply reaffirms that faith.
“The people who donate to Christmas Love amaze me,” said coordinator Nancy Bryant. “It’s amazing because it’s strictly done off of donations. We don’t have a fundraiser — it’s strictly these items that are bought for children; bought by volunteers who have donated money. And it’s incredible to see that happen, year in and year out.”
At this time of year, Christmas Love identifies as many needy families as organizers feel the program can satisfy, and uses donated money — 100 percent of it — to purchase shopping-list Christmas presents and clothing for local children who otherwise simply wouldn’t wake up to gifts on Christmas morning.
As in the past, the program is hoping to help approximately 250 children and families, and is putting out the call for donations from the community to help them reach that goal.
Money is by far the most efficient donation and the surest way to get a child the items he or she needs. Volunteers take donated funds and go shopping for items — both toys and clothing — on each child’s list. They make sure clothes are the right size, and they weigh how best to stretch the money to get as many toys as they can.
Bikes, footballs, supplies for arts and crafts. Many of the things kids who’ll benefit from the program ask for are routine goodies any child would love to see under the Christmas tree.
But the modesty of some requests humbles volunteers who’ve worked with the program in the past.
“Some of them ask for the simplest things; the things we take for granted,” said Bryant. “One boy asked for a bicycle seat — not a bicycle, but a bicycle seat. That one got to us, you know. One parent asked for house cleaning supplies; she wanted a bottle of Pine Sol so she could clean her floors — that’s all she wanted. Well, you can bet she was going to be getting a big bottle of Pine Sol.”
Christmas Love becomes most visible during the holidays, but the program is active throughout the year, helping people who’ve experienced unexpected loss. And, notes Bryant, the program doesn’t just seek to buy a few children some Christmas toys — it aims to involve kids’ whole families, and to give the children some more essential items along the way.
“We buy all the children a full set of clothing and shoes,” she explained. “It’s not just toys. Everyone get the clothing, and everything we get for them is new.
“In the five years I have been involved with it, it’s been so successful and we’ve had great volunteers. It’s a good feeling to know the feeling those children have when they’re going back to school after Christmas, with new clothes on and new shoes. And it’s just such a joy to know that, on Christmas morning, the children are waking up to feel the spirit of Christmas because of Christmas Love and the people who actually helped make that happen.”
As you shop at several local banks and businesses, you may also notice Christmas trees adorned with wish lists for individual kids the program has identified. If you’d like to donate gifts, simply pick a list and start shopping. When you’re done, just drop the gifts off, either at the store where you found the shopping list, or at the Cullman Caring for Kids dropoff location at 402 Arnold Street NE in Cullman.
Bryant, who works as the assistant director of Cullman Caring for Kids, stressed that the Christmas Love program is an independent organization not under the umbrella of services Cullman Caring for Kids provides.
“They are two separate agencies; nobody gets paid,” she said. “All of the money and donations we receive go directly to the children and to the families. There’s no administrative cost to cover, and no overhead; everything is done by volunteers. Donations to Christmas Love are tax deductible, and we always send a receipt or thank you card."
To donate money for this year’s Christmas Love program, send checks to:
Contact the program by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about giving or volunteering.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.