The Kids Loving Kids Collection Drive is nearing a crucial holiday deadline for clothes and toy donations, with many of its collection boxes empty with less than two weeks to go. Pam Dodd of …
The Kids Loving Kids Collection Drive is nearing a crucial holiday deadline for clothes and toy donations, with many of its collection boxes empty with less than two weeks to go.
Pam Dodd of Arley, the founder of the 505(c)(3) non-profit charity, encouraged the community to give items, including new underwear and socks, so children in Walker and Winston counties can have a brighter Christmas.
About 500 children were served by the charity last year, Dodd said. That number alone has her nervous in looking at the lack of donations this year.
"We've been checking on the (collection) boxes, and the boxes are empty," she said. "They need to be filled by (Dec.) 12th. ... We really need people to step up."
Volunteers will be needed at Living Light Church of God at 3420 N. Airport Road in Jasper to process items from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 12-13. Items will be distributed at the church on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., although volunteers will be needed that day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A separate Kids Loving Kids event is also in Cullman, also started by Dodd and managed by others.
Dodd, who with her husband, Bobby, runs Bobby and Pam Dodd Ministries, said on Wednesday she understands the need for the charity, as she grew up in a single-parent family where the father did not pay child support.
"Had it not been for our grandparents, there's a lot of times we wouldn't have had food, and we sure wouldn't have had clothes on our back," she said.
Her mother couldn't afford Christmas, but she would spend money needed for the electric bill to get items for the children, Dodd said.
"That is why this was started, so parents will not make those foolish decisions during the Christmas season. There are people who want to help," she said.
From that, the idea for Kids Loving Kids started around 2010, and the drive itself started in 2011. Only 25 to 30 people were at the first event, she said, with three volunteers. Now about 100 volunteers help out.
"Our focus is to teach kids and teenagers how to love on other kids and teenagers by donating at the Christmas season, going through their own personal items that they have at home," she said.
These includes toys, balls and other items that they no longer need, she said, noting they need to be slightly used. New items are also accepted.
This shows "they are really giving love, especially during the Christmas season," she said.
The No. 1 item requested by children and by teenagers is underwear, with socks at No. 2, she said. Only after that will they take a toy.
Underwear and socks are "items we ask that people always purchase," Dodd said. "We would love for clubs or organizations, churches, maybe the Sheriff's Department, to maybe take on this as a project, that they purchase socks and underwear in all sizes for all children and teenagers.
"We also love the little snuggle blankets, because a lot of these children are from single-parent homes. The mom or the dad, whoever they live with, is working. Those snuggle blankets really do comfort them."
Besides the underwear and socks, other clothing can be slightly used. She asked that the other clothes be laundered and make sure the clothing is not stained. Volunteers will also check the clothing; ripped and torn clothing is given to a local thrift store.
All sizes for underwear and socks are needed for all children, even through teenager years. "Some of these boys are wearing 44 and 46 waist" in pants, she said, noting the teenagers pick out. "They are the first to go look for things, and they always go straight to the clothes, and they will always ask if there is any underwear anywhere."
Other items are also accepted, such as shoes, toys, electronics, art supplies, board games, sports and hunting equipment, coats and clothing, she said. Blow dryers, hair care products, and "things teenage girls would like, such as nail polish, make up and even toothpaste" are accepted.
"Art supplies is a huge thing, because many of these kids need something to do with their time," she said. "It really is a way for them to release anxiety and troubles. We are hoping we can get a grant next year and we can have a street art fair for children and teenagers ... and have people come in and teach that."
Donations left over from the clothing will be given to Grace Ministries in Curry and the secret pantry program in the Walker County School System. Leftover toys are usually taken to a local fire department for redistribution.
Dodd said no one is turned away except for a handful of people they may feel is abusing the system. Parents or guardians are encouraged, if not required, to bring birth certificates or Social Security cards to verify the children being purchased or donated for.
A number of people contact Dodd in advance on her cell phone, texting names, ages and what they are in need of.
"I never receive a text message, never, to this day, where they are asking for toys," she said. "They are asking for certain size clothing." She many times encourages them to send a list of possible toys the children might like.
The items are gathered at a local residence large enough to store the items, she said. On Dec. 12, the items are taken to the church where volunteers from the community, including teenagers from the local schools, start separating toys into like groups, such as dolls and toy trucks.
During the Dec. 15 distribution event, volunteers walk through with parents or children to make sure no one is there to take advantage of the process. At the encouragement of Walmart and other local stores, the volunteers mark out codings so that the items cannot be returned.
Dodd noted last year she suffered from cancer and eventually was eradicated after treatments at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Last year she was very sick and volunteers did all the work, including the congregation of the Living Light Church of God, where she attends and teaches.
"I was too weak. I couldn't even get anything out of a box," she said.
However, she made it to the distribution and could see a few people were taking advantage of the charity, although she was too weak to deal with it.
"This year, I am 100 percent, and because I am in charge, I will be in charge, and I will whisper," she said. "I will not be rude, and I will say, 'This is a community event for people who are in need and I feel that you are taking advantage of that. If you can show me you are not, I will apologize.' But I remember the faces from last year. I have a really good memory. There are three people in particular."
She noted many children also live with grandparents who are on low fixed income in retirement. Dodd encourages the grandparents to come as well.
She noted that when families come, the church is putting on entertainment for the children. Many times the parents and guardians send the children along to that, while the parents pick out items and have them gift wrapped.
Other times, the children, particularly teenagers, are allowed to pick out items. In some cases, the parents let them pick out items and then have them gift wrapped so that the children will have something to unwrap on Christmas morning.
Meals will not be served last year as so many turned out that the volunteers had trouble keeping up with the demand, she said. The cost of the feeding also became expensive.
More boxes are out in the businesses this year, with 65 collection sites set up to accept clothing and toys. She noted items from three boxes were stolen last year, with people pretending to be the charity picking up the items. A protocol has been set up this year to prevent that happening again.
People can also give money to the non-profit drive, which is used at the last minute for gift purchases when it appears not enough items have been donated, Dodd said.
Anyone wanting to contact Dodd about the charity may call her at 256-318-4555 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She may also be written to at P.O. Box 185, Arley, AL 35541 or at the charity's Facebook page at KidsLovingKids.
Checks can be written to Kids Loving Kids. Donations may also be made through PayPal, through paypal.me/bpdministries.