Clarksville Corps offers birthday cheer to children
By: David Ibata
A sad consequence of households “social distancing” during the COVID-19 pandemic is the disappearance of children’s activities, like birthday parties. The Salvation Army in Clarksville, Tennessee, seeks to bring a little cheer to families with a Happy Birthday Toy Distribution.
Captain Dawn Whitaker put out the word on social media that if a family has a birthday coming up for a child 1 to 10 years of age, and if they let the corps know at least a week in advance and provide a birth certificate with a child’s date of birth, the corps will prepare a gift bag for pick-up or delivery.
“Especially now with the coronavirus, it’s hard enough to get what you need personally, whether it’s basic needs or things that are life-sustaining,” said Captain Whitaker, who with her husband Captain Jonathan Whitaker are corps officers in Clarksville. “Then when you have a birthday in there – well, kids shouldn’t ever go without.”
The idea appears to have originated with an officer mom in California, as something you can do for your families, if you have toys remaining from the Christmas distribution. A typical gift bag may contain a stuffed animal, a Bible and a craft kit – items age-appropriate for the child.
The first recipient in Clarksville was a 10-year-old girl.
“We packed a gift bag, dropped it off, and waved to her from afar,” Captain Dawn said. The girl’s family also mentioned they were short of food and had no money for gas, so the corps social worker gave them information about agencies and resources that could help.
“I wish I could give a birthday cake, balloons and all,” the captain said. “It’s just us trying to do something to alleviate an expense somewhere, for somebody, if we can.”
Word is getting around; local organizations are passing the information to parents. One resident donated more toys for the outreach. Birthday requests are trickling in.
“Some of the requests I’m getting are from people who hadn’t asked for help before,” Captain Dawn said. “This has helped us scout out areas in the community we didn’t know were there” – such as a large trailer park where the corps now knows there’s a need for food assistance.
“There are people who do need help. If we can get something started now, and as long as we’ve got things to give, we’ll be there.”