(pictured above: Johnell Hunter speaks while his wife, Debra Hunter, looks on.)
Organization gets locals in the holiday spirit
The leaders of Bless the Children did their best to live up to the organization’s name on Monday, Dec. 16 during their annual Christmas Cheer Giveaway at the Central Library.
Johnell and Debra Hunter, who founded the youth development and community service organiation nearly three decades ago, led a brief program in the library’s auditorium before distributing bags of fruit, nuts, candy and other goodies to around two dozen families.
“This year, we wanted to embrace health and nutrition because I’ve been trying to promote Mayor Allen Joines’ childhood obesity (initiative),” Mr. Hunter explained. “We’re trying to teach the young folks the importance of eating healthy.”
The 10th annual giveaway, which was sponsored by T.W. Garner Food Co. (makers of Texas Pete hot sauce) and Beauty World of Northside Shopping Center, promoted the true meaning of Christmas, while giving Bless the Children a chance to promote itself. The organization hosts field trips, provides mentoring opportunities and offers arts and crafts and gardening programs in communities across the Piedmont Triad. The only requirement to receive a bag of goodies was to register to be added to Bless the Children’s mailing list.
Mrs. Hunter shared the Christmas story, taken from the Book of Matthew, with the youngsters, and her husband followed up with a trivia session, allowing the children who answered correctly to choose gifts from a table of clothing.
“It’s just an overflow of things that we accumulate from our sponsors,” he said of the prizes. “We just want to let them know that our main task is to be a blessing, not receiving but giving.”
Fifteen year-old Madison Collins and her two younger siblings, Mary Goodine, 11, and Oashia Pettigrew, 9, were among those who came out for the event, which included live music and a chance for the youngsters to add their artistic flair to a silk banner.
“We heard about it so we came. We wanted to see what they did,” explained Madison, a sophomore at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy. “I think they did a good job of helping the ones that didn’t know about God, even though we already knew.”
Madison, an aspiring vocalist, said she was impressed by what she saw during the giveaway.
“I think that they care about the children in the world and they’re helping out with the ones that are not really getting anything for Christmas, letting them know that it’s not about gifts, but it’s about the love and joy of the Lord,” she remarked.
LaToya Kapp was visiting the library with her two-and-a-half-year-old son Micah when she stumbled upon the event. The organization’s name rang a bell; Kapp, a CNA, believes her father was one of the organization’s early members. She said she was considering letting Micah take part in Bless the Children programs.
“I would love to do it, because I’ve been saying I want to get him into more things because I
don’t want him to be one of those kids that are stuck in the house not doing anything,” the city native said. “I want him to be active; that’s why I bring him to the library.”
Aaron and Erin Fisher had come to the library in search of another event, and found themselves instead at the giveaway. Although he said he wasn’t familiar with Bless the Children, Mr. Fisher applauded the Hunters for reminding the public of the true meaning of the Christmas holiday.
“The fact that they’re not afraid to say Christmas is great,” he said. “I’m against the whole perceived war on Christmas – taking Christ out of Christmas.”
Volunteer Berlinda Baker participated in the event for the first time this year, but said she would be back.
“I’ve attended church services with them (the Hunters) but this is my first time coming to one of their events,” she explained. “It’s good. Anything involving kids I like to get involved with … I thank God for letting me be involved with the program today.”
Hunter said putting on the giveaway is something he and his family look forward to each year.
“It means everything,” the Praise Assembly Church Ministries member said. “It’s self satisfaction to know that I am practicing discipleship and servitude, as well as seeing young people grow up in the ministry.”
For more information about Bless the Children, contact Johnell Hunter at 336-354-7505.