D211123 nonprofit volunteer

Casey Coleman, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Morgan County, oversees the Holiday Hope Chests project, which is just one of many undertaken by the 50-year-old nonprofit. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

Over the past 15 years, three sisters have provided 3,450 Holiday Hope Chests — containing toys and other age-appropriate items — for the Volunteer Center of Morgan County to distribute at Christmas.

One of the sisters, Dawn Davidson of Morgan County, said her inspiration came from a childhood encounter. She lived down the road from residents at the old Alabama Sheriff’s Association Boys Ranch in Danville and noticed when riding the school bus with them that they had mostly worn clothing.

“I guess even back then, I thought, 'You know, it’s terrible that they don’t get to enjoy the things that the rest of us on this bus have.' And so, I think whenever I was asked if I was interested in doing this project. … I guess that was the driving force behind me,” Davidson said.

The Holiday Hope Chests, which are about the size of shoe boxes and filled by volunteers with items for kids ages infant to 18, are just one of many projects undertaken by the Volunteer Center, which is celebrating its 50th years in 2021.

Davidson started out making one box, then two to three boxes 15 years ago, and it just became a project, she said.

After about three or four years, Davidson said, her sister Susan Grantham who lives in Montgomery County, said she wanted to help, too. After that, their other sister, Janet Davidson who lives in Mississippi, joined in, Davidson said.

“Over the years, off and on I’ve had friends who pitched in and did boxes, or brought things to put in the boxes, or came over and wrapped boxes at my house, or helped me deliver boxes," Davidson said.

This year alone, Davidson said she did 120 boxes, while Grantham said she did 75. Janet usually does around 100 boxes, Dawn Davidson said.

Davidson said she knows there are children in foster care, and she has friends that are foster parents.

“I know these children don’t have a lot. And they’re not in that situation because they want to be. It’s because they’ve been put in that situation because of family issues.”

While Davidson used to do boxes for all ages, she was told a couple of years ago that there was a real need for boxes for younger children.

“So, I started doing two to fours, five to sevens, and eight to elevens.” Janet does these ages as well, Davidson said.

Grantham usually does the infant and toddler boxes.

“I try to make sure that the babies will have everything that they need, from pacifiers to body wash,” Grantham said.

Davidson and Grantham both said their mother instilled in them the importance of giving back to the community. “She was that type of person, that if she (had) seen somebody in need, she definitely wanted to help out,” Davidson said.

Grantham said, “I want to make sure that every child has a good Christmas.”

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Other projects

The Volunteer Center’s mission statement is to mobilize people and resources to address the issues that are important to the community and strengthen the capacity of local organizations to meet community needs through volunteerism.

Casey Coleman, in her third year as the center director, said it started in 1971 with $2,000 donated by the Kiwanis Club of Decatur. Coleman said every project the center undertakes is done by volunteers.

“We want to make it easy for them (the Morgan County residents). Do you not have a heater? Let me get you one. It may be a space heater, but you’re not going to freeze. Are you hungry? Let me feed you. Those type of things.”

"If you’re healthier, you thrive and you’re more productive as a human being,” Coleman said.

Kids Interested in Volunteer Service is a program the center holds every Summer for 25 kids ages 10 to 13. “They go to different nonprofits and help them with anything they have going on,” Coleman said.

This past Summer, Coleman said, some of their volunteer work included filling bags for the homeless, putting together food boxes, and painting pots and potting plants for an assisted living center.

Another service is Teen Assistance in which a teen gets one item costing between $100 and $150. It must be a need, like a jacket, and not a want, Coleman said.

The center offers heating and cooling options like a window unit, Coleman said. Also, the center gets volunteers to go and cut up trees for the elderly that may have fallen during a storm.

One of the main projects the center does year-round is build ramps for those that are wheelchair bound or may have problems going up and down steps. According to Coleman, they have built 24 or 25 so far this year.

Anyone interested in volunteering or donating financially can visit www.vcomc.org.

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—erica.smith@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2460.

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