Red Stockings: a Board of Child Care legacy continues

By Erik Alsgaard
UMConnection Staff (link to full newsletter)

If you grew up in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, you might remember, as a child, putting 10 dimes in a slotted, Christmas stocking-shaped card. It was a way to give money to children who were being cared for by the Board of Child Care.

In the 1960s, this offering contributed about 60 percent of the operating budget of the Board, said the Rev. Stacey Nickerson, Director of Church and Community Engagement. Today, the red stockings are still around, but thanks to grants, contracts with various government agencies, and more, the offering is mainly used to help ensure the BCC children and their families have a Christmas.

The history of the BCC goes back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Three facilities, all with ties to the Methodist Church — the Kelso Home for Girls, Strawbridge Home for Boys, and Swartzell Methodist Home for Children — merged under one organizational structure, called the Board of Child Care.

After bringing all three of these independent organizations together, a way of funding the work was needed. Their initial suggestion was to have a Christmas offering for every church in the conferences (what is now the Peninsula-Delaware Conference was a part of the BCC in the early 1920s). In 1953, the annual conferences adopted the report of the merger and established the Christmas offering.

The genius of these stockings, Nickerson said, is that they allowed children in local churches to help other children in need. The Christmas stocking debuted, she said, in 1954. On the BCC’s Facebook page, they are collecting stories of adults who, as a child, filled those stockings.

“Over the years, it’s changed,” Nickerson said, noting that today’s stocking card holds quarters. “But I can go in a lot of United Methodist churches today and hold up that stocking and people are like, ‘Oh, you’re from there!’ It’s iconic.”

In addition to the stockings, the BCC also provides offering envelopes for people who wish to make monetary donations that don’t jingle.

“I’d like to see churches take advantage of the Christmas offering more,” Nickerson said.


“Because it’s a fantastic way for churches to connect with what we’re doing here,” she said, plus it helps teach stewardship, sacrifice, and more to both adults and children alike.

Nickerson, who has the nick-name this time of year, “The BCC’s St. Nick,” works with the youth in their residential programs to establish a Christmas wish-list. She then matches those lists with churches and other organizations that want to help. Sadly, there are still children who don’t get anything filled on their list.

That’s where Nickerson steps in. “I take the money that’s been raised through the stockings to go out and purchase what is needed,” she said. “Everyone gets gifts.”

Volunteers come in to wrap the gifts, and the children receive them on Christmas morning.

The BCC’s Auxiliary also hosts a Christmas store for families of residential youth, Nickerson said. That’s where youth can shop for gifts for their loved ones. “We’ve expanded that,” she said.

“We have a family store, so the families of our students at the school, residential facilities, clients in Pasadena and outpatient mental health, can go and select gifts for their families, their siblings, and others. It’s amazing.”

For more information on how to participate in the Red Stocking program, visit or contact Rev. Stacey Nickerson 443-845-4388 or

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BOO-Tacular Halloween

Our dedicated Social Workers and Case Manager
BCC’s Senior Leadership Team
Our Training and Human Resources Departments
Our Outpatient Mental Health Clinic
We LOVE our Strawbridge Teachers!




















Kelsey Managers our Southern Maryland Office Social Workers!
Nicole, representing for our Denton Campus!

Youth in costumes and one of the houses decorated for Halloween!

First time ever pumpkin carving and painting for many of our youth!



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Behind The Tassel-CJ

A New Path Chosen

Diagnosed with ADD at an early age, C.J. struggled throughout his childhood and was headed down a path of self-destruction. He found himself in jail and was admitted to BCC’s Falling Waters Campus. While he was there, C.J. discovered a sense of community that did wonders for his self esteem and communication skills. C.J. became very active in the local high school while BCC staff kept him on track with his academics. When offered the chance to graduate on stage with his senior class, C.J. chose instead to graduate at Falling Waters. It was one of his proudest moments. After leaving the BCC, C.J. wanted to join the armed forces yet he was unable to score high enough for enlistment. Using the skills learned at the BCC, C.J. studied until he was able to earn the rank of a U.S. Marine.

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Practicing Kindness

I would like to share a link to a brief video that I hope you will find helpful for yourself, for the young people and families with whom you work and for your own family and friends.

It is a way to practice kindness.

We used this as our Centering Moment for the October Senior Leadership Team meeting.  Since then I have found myself intentionally sending kind wishes often.

Right now I pause to offer kind wishes to each of you and pray that the practice of kindness increases in our BCC community and throughout our world. May it begin with me.

On behalf of the Spiritual Life team, God’s peace and loving-kindness to all – Stacey

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Resources in Response to Las Vegas Tragedy

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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Bishop’s Easterling’s Statement Following the Shooting in Las Vegas

October 2, 2017

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

Beloved of God,

Today we awoke to the news of what is being called the worst mass shooting in modern American history. Yet, these words sound all too familiar. They sound familiar because we heard them after the shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Florida. We heard them after the shooting in San Bernardino, California. We heard them after the unfathomable tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school. We heard them yet again after bullets rang out at Virginia Tech. We keep hearing them.

And yet, may we never grow numb to the senseless loss of life.

We search for the words to articulate our grief and disbelief. In reality, there simply are no words. Families are shattered and loved ones sit dazed in mourning and anger. A city attempts to come to grips with how a man aimed his weapon at complete strangers and repeatedly pulled the trigger. A nation wonders how we will collectively heal from another horrific mass casualty.

Although we may feel helpless right now, as people of faith we know that prayers are powerful and effective. Therefore, we pray.

We pray: for all those who have learned, and will learn of the death of their loved ones; for those fighting for their lives right now; for first responders who attend to the dying, the suffering, and the bodies of those who have drawn their last breath; for the doctors, nurses, and medical staff who will work tirelessly and selflessly to save lives; for the family of the gunmen who must bear the wrath of acts they did not commit;
for those who cannot muster the faith to pray.

And, as we pray, may we remember that prayer is more than words. Prayer is also action. When we have the opportunity, may we act in concert with our prayers.

Your servant in Christ,
Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling

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Sighs too deep for words – Bishop Peggy Johnson

Sighs too deep for words

There is a line in the musical Hamilton that says “I’ve imagined my death so many times that it seems like a memory.”

The senseless slaughter of innocent lives in Las Vegas this week (which left 59 dead so far and over 500 injured) once again thrusts us into an unimaginable image of what it would be like to be in the midst of a mass shooting.  Sadly, it is happening so often in this country, it is beginning to seem like a memory or a repetitive bad dream.

We must pray at this time.  Pray for the families of the victims and the family of the perpetrator.  Pray for those who have been injured and their loved ones.  Pray for all the people who witnessed this scene of terror first-hand, who have nightmares or even survivors’ guilt.

Pray for the first-responders and the people who wish they could have been there to help or hold the hand of a loved one in their last minutes of life.  Pray for all the counselors, pastors, teachers, and parents who are trying to help people get through this tragedy.

When we don’t have the words, we call on the Holy Spirit’s aid. Romans 8:26 says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

We also need to search our hearts for something we can do. Mass shootings will continue in this country as long as we have a culture of violence and hatred. We as a church need to be teaching people ways of solving problems peaceably.

We can learn how to recognize signs of alienation and desperation in some persons described as “lone wolf” types. And we can reach out to them in healing ways so that perhaps some tragedies can be prevented. We can promote the inclusion of more mental health services that can be available to all and lessen the stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need.

May we live to see the day when such senseless killings are a past and not present memory in this world of ours.


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Back-To-School 2017 Donations Recap

Strawbridge Staff on the First Day of the 2017-2018 School Year

Quotes from Families Accepting the Back-To-School Donations 

  1. This Agency always seems to amaze us. We have 3 children and it is so hard to afford all that they need for school. We are able to get most of the children’s supplies; but unable to afford everything.  You guys make it possible for us every year.  Thanks so much.
  2. I am filled with joy that you all are willing to help families like mine. My daughter is so happy now that she has a new backpack. I could barely afford her school supplies, but was able to get it all.  The only item left was a backpack.  I am so humbled.
  3. Thank You Board of Child Care. This means more than you know.
  4. My child looks forward to school every year now. She just asked if your company was doing the Back To School donations again this year.
  5. My child has all of his supplies. Therefore; I would like to leave the supplies for those families that are still struggling to get them before school starts. This is a nice donation that the Agency is doing for the families.
  6. Totally AWESOME back pack. I love Spider Man. Thank you.
  7. I am so happy that your company cares about their clients enough to help us out when we need it the most. Thank you all very much.
  8. This was the first year that my daughter was able to pick out her own back pack. She is very happy with her choice.
  9. I wish that there was a way that my family could repay you all for all that you do for my child. It really warms my heart.
  10. Thanks Board of Child Care. I could not have done it all without you and your generosity.
  11. I picked out the prettiest binder. It had glitter on it and I love glitter.
  12. The love and support that you all show us is amazing. Thanks for helping us this year for school.


Brooklyn Community UMC

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Prayer Today

I have been reading My Spiritual Journey by The Dalai Lama and have found lots of inspiration and challenge from this spiritual leader and Buddhist monk.  Meditating on his writing is helping me to increase my capacity for the practice of compassion for others and myself.

Here is a prayer offered by His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

I pray for a more loving human family.  Even when I meet a stranger each time I have the same feeling:  “He is another member of my human family.”  Such an attitude deepens my affection and respect for all beings.
May this natural loving-kindness become my small contribution to world peace!
I pray for a world that is more friendly, more loving, and for a better understanding among the human family, on this planet.
That is the appeal I make from the bottom of my heart to all those who hate suffering and cherish lasting happiness.

Will you join me in this prayer and to a commitment to increase our practice of compassion?


P.S.  This prayer was part of our Centering Moment today at the Senior Leadership Team meeting.  Please feel free to share it with those around you – including colleagues and the young people with whom we work.  Blessings!

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Rosh Hashanah

At sunset yesterday, Wednesday, September 20, our Jewish friends will begin the celebration of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and conclude on the evening of Friday, September 22.  The year will be 5778.

Here is a traditional greeting to offer: L’shana tovah u’metukah – “For a good and sweet year.” 

This is pronounced l’shah-NAH toe-VAH ooh-meh-too-KAH (oo as in food).

Please join me in wishing everyone who is celebrating a very happy new year!

L’shana tovah u’metukah!

This is a great opportunity for all of us to celebrate the good things of the past year and look forward to a new beginning with God’s blessing.

I want to share with you a brief video for the celebration. Last year a group of people from different communities around the world recorded a special blessing song for Rosh Hashanah. The video was done by 92nd Street Y, a cultural and community center. This is the link to the video: I hope you enjoy it.

Hope and Peace to all – Rev. Stacey


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