DCS, New Clothes for Kids working to give a 'Merry Christmas' to local children

By Greg Miller

STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
The local office of the State of Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS) and New Clothes for Kids, Inc. are working on a program to see that all Carter County children in the state's custody have a "Merry Christmas" in the form of gifts and a party.
   According to a news release, New Clothes for Kids has already received a commitment of a toy donation to help some of the younger children. However, money is still needed for clothing and toys for the older children.
   "None of these things are provided for by the state," said Amos Stevens, a supervisor at the Carter County DCS office. "So it's left up to us to raise money for Christmas gifts and a Christmas party."
   Very few of the children in state custody "have had a lot of good things happen to them," Stevens said. "They've had a lot of negative things happen to them. Their self image is damaged. They already feel different from other children. One reason to do this is so they at least they won't feel different from other children at Christmas.
   "If you feel different, it creates self image problems and confidence problems. This may be a small way, but maybe it's one thing we can do to keep them from feeling that kind of thing. We want them to feel like they're special to the Department of Children's Services and to the community."
   Those who contribute financially are welcome to attend the Christmas party, according to Stevens, who said they may also meet the children. "Ordinarily, the party has been at First Christian Church," Stevens said. "And we feel that is where it will be again."
   Stevens says he appreciates the role that Citizens Bank has played over the years in making the party a success. The bank has been funding the party, as well as the gifts the children have received at the party, for the past several years. "We want to give them a lot of credit," Stevens said.
   "We're hoping that there might be enough money left over for a birthday gift sometime during the year," Stevens said.
   Projects are underway in Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties. Monies raised in each county will benefit children in that particular county.
   "We can take donations after Oct. 15, but we'd like to have it by Oct. 15," Stevens said. "It takes a while to pull all of this together."
   Stevens says that response to the program, begun in 1970, "has been very good. People want to give money to kids. They have a real compassion and a real desire to help unfortunate kids, foster kids, or kids who have suffered abuse or neglect."
   The media plays an important role in the success of the program, according to Stevens. "We find that people respond to newspaper articles and radio spots," he said.
   Checks should be made payable to "New Clothes for Kids, Inc." and mailed to the State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services, Carter County DCS Office, 714 W. C Street, Elizabethton, TN 37643. All contributions are tax deductible.
   For more information, call 547-5814.