Accidental ministry bears fruit

More than 18,000 stuffed animals have been donated since “Teddy Bears on Patrol” began in 1996.

I started the “Teddy Bears on Patrol” in 1996 after my family was in a car accident. A stranger stopped to help and gave each one of my kids a small stuffed toy each to keep. This touched us very deeply.

I would never have guessed this one act of kindness would end up having an impact halfway across the world.

Originally, I started the program as part of my volunteer work with the Cherokee County PTA. After the PTA decided it did not want to continue the effort, my kids decided we needed to continue it in memory of my son, Matthew, who died in 2006 from leukemia.

Then my church, Holly Springs UMC, joined the effort. In 2009, when I was appointed pastor of Dawsonville UMC, my new church embraced the cause.

In the past 13 years, we’ve collected and distributed more than 18,000 stuffed animals. They have been given to numerous fire departments and law enforcement agencies, including the Cherokee County sheriff’s department, Woodstock police, Canton police, and the sheriff’s departments in Paulding, Fulton and Forsyth counties. In addition, stuffed animals have been supplied to various hospitals in the greater Atlanta area, the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, local DFACS, youth detention centers and MUST.

We have even supplied stuffed animals to state police in Nebraska, as well as the hundreds given to mission groups headed to Mexico and Russia.

If we find other agencies that serve children in a crisis situation, we will try to give them stuffed animals. We have heard many touching stories about what a difference it can make for a child in duress to have a stuffed animal to hold.

Our community and local businesses have become involved through unsolicited donations. A small privately owned business sent in $420 to purchase 140 bears. Some Kroger stores have allowed us to use their locations for collection sites of used/gently loved bears and cash donations.

Local churches have asked their congregations to support this program and have offered help in repairing any stuffed animals that may have been loved just a little too much. We are also receiving help from a senior citizens group for repairs.

I am amazed at the impact of one simple little action when it is done for God’s glory.

What small act can you do for someone else? This miracle occurred as a response to a misfortune. This response has made all the difference in my life, in my children’s lives, and the lives of countless others.

When we respond with genuine love, miracles occur.

NGUMC – The Advocate

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