BUCKHANNON — Help us help kids – it was a plea put out by the Band of Brothers earlier this fall as it began its annual campaign to follow the charge found in Matthew 25:44-45.
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. (NRSV).
Along with supporting standing organizations and projects, the Band of Brothers has taken on a special project each Christmas to help the least of these, according to member Al Tucker. The last two years that involved flood relief efforts in the central part of the state and then in Hundred.
This year, the Band of Brothers settled on McDowell County which did not face any environmental disasters but whose people still needed help.
“That’s what we try to do,” Tucker said.
Forty-seven percent of children in McDowell County are considered homeless, according to information Tucker learned.
Tucker, an accomplished photographer, began publishing calendars with his photos several years ago. It then turned into a fundraiser for the Band of Brothers ministry. For several years, there were 700 calendars to sell.
As the calendars began selling out, the number has increased. Last year, there were 800.
This year it stood at 1,000.
At one point, Tucker said he asked himself, “Why did we order 1,000 calendars? What were we thinking?”
He need not have worried. All 1,000 were sold.
It’s an accomplishment that comes with a lot of hard work coordinated among the Band of Brothers and other groups that Tucker belongs to.
The calendar sales and donations that the Band of Brothers received made the Friday, Dec. 21 deliveries and various other donations possible.
On a rainy Friday before Christmas, the crew loaded food into a pull-behind trailer while it was still dark. They finished while the morning light emerged despite the rain that persisted.
Following a prayer and some group photos, the crew headed south through more rain but making it there earlier than expected thanks to their early start.
“We thought we would get there around noon,” Tucker said. “We got there about 11 or so and the people they had lined up to help us were to come at 11:30 a.m. By the time they got there, we had everything unloaded.”
The first stop was Lazarus House in downtown Welch, a relatively new center opened up by Pastor Robert Cale.
Tucker and others had visited several weeks ago to make plans and find out what was needed.
Since then, things had been moved.
There were Christmas Day boxes, New year’s boxes, and 25 to 30 baby car seats. The boxes each contained enough food for a family of eight.
Although not advertised, people had donated clothes, shoes
“We did a little check presentation with Pastor Robert Cale and gave him a $5,000 check,” he said. “He was blown away to get all the food and other stuff but also to provide funds so they can help kids during the week.
“They do dinner meals once or twice a week, he said.
Another couple, Paul and Faith Dick, runs a Young Life Ministry in the western part of McDowell County and were also presented with a $5,000 check. The Young Life Ministry was able to receive a match so the $5,000 donation became $10,000.
“They feed kids Tuesdays and Thursdays but minister to kids every day, according to Tucker.
Tucker said they were told about the good things the money would be used for at both locations.
“That is what it is all about,” he said. “To provide people helping kids with some financial resources that will last them a little while.”
That was the purpose of a scouting trip, Tucker made with other Band of Brothers members earlier to find out what was really needed in the area.
“It was all very focused and to a need that they were dealing with,” Tucker said. “It’s going to allow them to address that need.”
When the group had left the Lazarus House, there were people there to begin
Tucker said he received a call from Cale who said that a young woman was already in tears because she was able to get one of the car seats.
“It was a blessing and very humbling,” Tucker said.
Tucker said he and the rest of the Band of Brothers are grateful for all the calendar sales and donations that made their McDowell trip and the other donations possible. He estimates they have raised just over $30,000.
“Without their generosity, we couldn’t have done it,” he said. “I don’t know how many times someone would hand me something or I would get something in the mail and it would say for the kids of McDowell County. A lot of people saw that need and responded to it and it allowed us to go way beyond our expectations.”
Besides the McDowell County Christmas blessing, the donations raised will support about a dozen other activities including Teen Challenge and food backpack programs in local school.
“We were just able to make a really nice contribution to each of those people that were working hard to take care of kids in that capacity,” he said.