Anitra Parmele, an on-air fundraiser in Food for the Poor’s Media Department, has seen how two donors’ creativity and generosity touches the children Food For The Poor serves.
From adults to toddlers, the brightly colored dolls with the engaging grins invariably elicit a consistent response.
Like so many, Alice Marino, Director of Media Marketing, was instantly captured by the dolls’ bright colors and winsome expressions. “In 2014, I saw an open box in the warehouse with several adorable faces peeking out. I immediately thought of the children we would meet on an upcoming (Media) trip and I asked for some to take with us.”
This simple request began a relationship that has connected two special women in North Carolina to children throughout the countries where Food For The Poor (FFP) serves.
“Each year, Nancy and Juliana of St. Martha’s Guild in Burlington, North Carolina send us dozens of what they call ‘comfort dolls.’ Each of the dolls is hand-knit and can take up to five hours to create.” explains Celia, Media Coordinator. “We unpack them and assign them to upcoming trips.”
If you are fortunate enough to be close by when a box arrives, you may be invited to exclaim over each doll’s unique features, enjoy their zany color patterns, and even whisper a quick prayer for the ultimate recipient.
Over the years, the dolls have been distributed to infants and teens, boys and girls, in many of the countries Food For The Poor serves. Their appeal to both genders is no accident.
Linda, Media Marketing Manager, explains, “Juliana’s dolls have a beanie hat, while Nancy connects the hair with a single stitch so if boys outnumber girls, we can quickly modify them in the field, so every child has someone to love.”
Many of the staff are sure to make room in their duffels for this precious cargo when traveling for Food For The Poor. Shanny, an Event Manager in FFP’s Special Events department, writes, “It was an overwhelming experience to bring joy to the lovely children of Ti Mache, Haiti – their eyes glistened and sparkled as they tightly hugged the dolls.”
Paul, an on-air radio fundraiser in FFP’s Media Marketing, shares, “We were in an impoverished community in Guatemala when I met Veronica and her family. As I handed her three-year-old daughter Maria a doll, I looked around their hut. Their clothes were worn to rags, and smoke from their fire filled the room. The one bright spot was the doll that Maria hugged to her chest. It’s an image I won’t ever forget.”
I was on my first trip to Haiti when I had a chance to see generosity in its purest form. We were leaving a community when I looked around and figured we had just enough dolls left to give each child in the crowd one. We passed them out to smiles and softly spoken, “Mercis.” No sooner had I zipped up the empty bag than another girl wandered over. My heart broke as I wondered aloud what to do. Not a heartbeat later, we watched one of the girls hand her doll to the newcomer. These children literally had nothing, but in a moment I saw generosity that even today loosens my grip on the things God has given me.
No one familiar with the economy of God will be startled to hear that Nancy and Juli express that they are the ones grateful for the chance to bless the children. A recent box of dolls included a handwritten note: “Alice, thank you again for finding loving homes for my comfort dolls!!! More hugs, Nancy.”
Alice recently emailed Nancy the role the dolls will play in bringing smiles to orphans this holiday season. Alice shares, “We were able to include several boxes full of dolls with the Christmas items sent to the orphanages Food For The Poor supports.”
Alice continues, “There are no words to describe the joy when you hand a child a doll, and he or she realizes that it is his or hers – that this is something of their very own. These are often the poorest of the poor and for them to have something beautiful to hold and keep is truly precious.”