Abe Wilkinson, CEO Elks Aidmore,
During the celebration that accompanied this past Christmas season, we paused to remember
the tragedy that occurred on December 14th in Newtown, Connecticut. We watched and listened
as communities across America remembered those 20 children and six adults who lost their lives
at the hand of a severely disturbed young man. During one memorial service for the town, the
church bells tolled 26 times. With each tolling of the bell, our hearts hurt a little more. Once
again, and forevermore, our lives have been changed. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be
with the families and the community.
For youth in foster care, the holidays are a difficult time. Some have lost parents to death,
through self-inflicted wounds, disease or tragedy. Others have parents who are incarcerated
because of uncontrolled substance abuse. Most have been the victims of domestic violence at the
hands of their parents. Perhaps most hurtful of all, are those whose parents have simply walked
away from them.
We are thankful to have so many "Human Angels" who step up each year to make the
Christmas season a little brighter for the young people served by Elks Aidmore.
On Thanksgiving Day, our Angels came to Aidmore under the coordination of Saundra Abel
(Brunswick), who was assisted by her husband Ed, Merv and Sybil Givens (Atlanta-Northlake),
Dan and Suzi Lindsey (Atlanta Northlake), Al and Debbie Olmstead (Atlanta Northlake), Rusty
and Diane Stevens (Eatonton), and Daniel and Phyllis Thomason (Calhoun). The Brunswick Elks
Auxiliary made 12 desserts for the occasion. In addition to great food, they listed to great music,
sang karaoke, and created memories that will last a lifetime.
Our Christmas Angels, under the direction of Elks Aidmore Auxiliary Chairman Pam Stewart
(Calhoun) convened at the Elks Aidmore campus on Saturday, December 8th to decorate the
gym in preparation for the Christmas Party. She was joined by Auxiliary Committee members
Peggy Jones (Atlanta Northlake), Patricia Kirkpatrick (Covington), Dixie Spiker (Valdosta),
Harriet Thompson (Albany), and advisor Saundra Abel (Brunswick). The Christmas Party was
held on Sunday, December 9th with a choral performance by the Aidmore residents that made
everyone laugh and prepared us for the season. For the first time ever, the youth residing on the
Aidmore campus were joined by the youth in our new Therapeutic Foster Care program. Over
30 youth received gifts for Christmas from the Elks. The Georgia Elks Aidmore Auxiliaries,
Georgia Elks Aidmore Past State Presidents Association, Garry and Shelli Stephens (Santa and
Mrs. Claus), Athens Lodge, Brunswick Lodge, Brunswick PER Association, Calhoun Lodge,
LaFayette Lodge, and Valdosta Lodge are all to be commended for working together to purchase
gifts for our youth. Thanks to a number of supporters, we were able to restock the Clothes Closet
and received 30 suitcases and backpacks for the kids. The event was one of the best attended in
the last 20 years.
A couple of our Christmas Angels made special efforts to insure the Christmas holidays
would be extra nice. Vance and Peggy Rhodes (Dalton) brought wrapped gifts to be placed under
the tree, so that each child would have a gift to open on Christmas morning. The Watts Family
(Richard, Heidi and Christine from Atlanta Northlake) have made a pledge to donate to a charity
each year in lieu of exchanging gifts with one another. Last year, they donated a refrigerator,
stove and dishwasher to one of the cottages. This year, they purchased two sets of washers and
dryers for two of the cottages.
On Christmas Eve, more of our Atlanta Northlake Christmas Angels (Al and Debbie
Olmstead, Merv and Sybil Givens) returned to the Elks Aidmore campus with pizzas, desserts,
gifts and karaoke. Ed and Terri Carmine, Mike Hart, and Brad Moore provided pizza, popcorn,
and gift bags.
We are grateful for the growing number of Community Angels who threw Christmas parties,
purchased gifts, donated gift cards, made cash contributions and brought baked goods. They
include: Children's Restoration Network, Prospect United Methodist Church, First Baptist
Church, Philadelphia United Methodist Church, Woodmen of the World, Emmanuel Community
Church, Heritage Hills Baptist Church, Ken Fortson Class (Social Circle United Methodist
Church), General Ray Davis Middle School, Mark Zirbel, National Building Contractors, USA
Package Store and the Oxford College Student Development Office.
We give thanks to all of you who went out of your way to remember the children and youth
being served by Elks Aidmore, especially at this time of year.
Last, but certainly not least, we remembered the reason that we celebrate Christmas. Jesus is
the perfect gift...the one that fits the size of every heart. He is the one who leads Human Angels
our way. He is there for us every day, just for the asking. And, on December 21st, He was there
to open his arms and welcome home 26 of His children.
May the New Year bring you good health and happiness. May the Lord continue to bless you
with the gift of His perfect peace and a sense of His presence in your heart every day.
For more information, contact Elks Aidmore Children’s Center, 2394 Morrison Road, Conyers, GA 30094, 770-483-3535 or 877-346-1187 (toll free), or visit the website at www.elksaidmore.com.
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