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Posted: Sunday, December 15th 2013 at 8:41am

Bears deliver presents to White County children

By Emily Grooms, TMC, Special to
click to enlarge
TMC athletes, shown from left, are Taylor Nix, Rachel Crump, Rebecca Creswell, Nicole Daniels, Ruth Dennis, Meagan Taylor and Taylor Whitsel.
CLEVELAND For the third straight year, Truett-McConnell College athletes distributed Christmas stockings, filled with toys, candy and a message of the Gospel, to children who visit the White County Food Pantry in Cleveland, Ga. December 10.

Each stocking was filled with toys and other Christmas items, including a copy of the Christmas story from the Bible.

An overwhelming need

The White County Food pantry distributes nearly 400,000 lbs. of food to 6,000 local families, including 8,000 hungry children a year.

Recognizing this overwhelming need, members of Truett-McConnell College's Bears in the Community (BIC), a group of student-athletes representing each TMC sports team, spearheaded this year's White County Christmas effort.

"As a group, Bears in the Community is always looking for opportunities to make an impact in the lives of the people around us," said BIC president and senior baseball player, Hayden Fleming.

Members of BIC distributed flyers around the Truett-McConnell College campus, inviting students to participate in collecting Christmas stockings for White County kids.

"We simply told people what we were doing," said vice president, Rebecca Creswell, a senior on the school's softball team. "We asked everyone to donate a stocking filled with Christmas items for kids and told them about the need in White County."

Nearly 100 athletes and other students answered the call.

"We had boxes and boxes of stockings lining our apartment," Creswell said. "Some sports teams brought so much stuff that the items wouldn't even fit into the stockings."

Serving with purpose

As visitors lined the walls of the small waiting area inside the food pantry, several athletes worked alongside the weekly volunteers, sorting food and distributing orders while others handed out stockings to those with children.

"There are such a high number of underprivileged people in our area, and a lot of children who may not have a good Christmas," said Meagan Taylor of the TMC Women's Soccer Team. "We want to show them they are cared for and that they are loved."

While stockings stuffed with toys and candy is sure to bring a smile to the many children's faces, Taylor said there is more to it than that: "Sharing the Gospel is what it's all about, and this is a practical way we can do that. It's not all about the presents and the gifts, but through those things, we can use this as a platform to say, 'Christ loves you, and the reason we celebrate Christmas is because he came to die for you.'"

Sophomore softball player, Nicole Daniels, echoed Taylor's response, claiming that "making a difference in a child's life" is the sole purpose.

"I've been really blessed in my life, and I know a lot of us as students and athletes have been blessed above and beyond what we need; it's important to recognize that and to be willing to give back to those who haven't had the same privilege."

Many children who come from difficult situations are totally innocent of their circumstance, Daniels continued, "and to give them a gift as simple as a Christmas stocking is a way that we can share God's love with them."

Not only have Truett-McConnell athletes given White County children something to smile about on Christmas, they've also committed to performing community service hours throughout the year. To date, the athletic teams have given more than a combined 1,000 hours of community service locally.

"For people to see that we want to be involved and that we want to care it says a lot about not only Truett-McConnell or even ourselves, but about why we're doing it," Taylor said. "Essentially, in everything we're doing, it's for the Lord because want to show the love of Christ."

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