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.
“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.
“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.”
Note: Rev. Dr. Stacey Nickerson is no longer working at BCC, however the Development team still runs this historical and important Red Stocking Campaign each year. For more information on how to participate in the Red Stocking program, visit BoardofChildCare.org/Christmas
Our program participants enjoyed a variety of activities this past holiday season, which were in almost all cases only possible due to the generosity of others. Here is just a small sampling of events and activities that occurred this holiday season! Special Trip for the Residents On December 7, 2015, three residents and a staff member drove to DC’s Verizon Center to watch the Washington Wizards defeat the Miami Heat, 114-103. Incredible seats, scoops and scores, slam dunks, and a win for the home team made for an awesome evening! Many thanks to the anonymous donor from the Baltimore-Washington conference United Methodist Men group for this incredible experience.
Collecting Donations Thanks to the incredible support by area churches, businesses, and individuals, we were able to sponsor Christmas for every child at BCC! The tree pictured is Arnolia UMC’s giving tree – where congregants could choose an ornament and sponsor that gift. Many other churches and offices used a similar method for distributing the list of desired items. However our donors chose to shop or donate, we thank you!
Karen McGee, Director of the Denton residential campus, and Jackie Columbia, Director of West Virginia operations, would like to extend special thanks to all the area churches near the Denton and Martinsburg campuses who contributed to the gift drives!
Present Wrapping Volunteer Event Thanks to the generosity of all the churches and individuals, we had many presents to wrap! Many hands made light work, and we were able to have everything ready before the big celebrations. Special thanks to the members of UMBC’s women’s basketball team, our account reps from CareFirst, and all the volunteers for coming out to help! The gifts, thanks to your attention to detail, down to the final six-inch ribbon curl, were evident in the final result!
Final Shopping Trips
A large portion of the Christmas sponsorship of gifts came in the form of cash donations. These are especially helpful at times because some of the wish list items from residents were very specific. BCC would like to say a very special thank you to Rev. Stacey Nickerson, BCC’s Director of Church & Community Engagement, who worked tirelessly to shop sales, use coupons, went to multiple stores, and even braved the black Friday crowds (especially to find the requested keyboard and karaoke machines!) to stretch the donated dollars as far as they could go! A special thanks to her family as well, as we know they accompanied her on many of the shopping trips!
Christmas Stocking Assembly Guy Everhart (BCC Board of Director Vice Chair) and his wife, Sue (Auxiliary Vice President), once again made stockings (124 in total!) for each and every resident at the Board of Child Care. Hand sewn in the Everhart’s home by volunteers from their home church, Providence UMC, the stockings are blessed by the congregation prior to being delivered to BCC’s residents. Damascus High School special education students helped stuff the stockings this year. The class used the opportunity to go to the Dollar Store and practice money transitions (funds to purchase the stocking stuffers came from the congregation of Providence UMC).
Holiday Celebrations The special dinners and programs were followed by gift opening by the residents in their living units. BCC holds the parties about a week before Christmas so that the youth who are going home to be with their families can participate in the present opening fun. In addition to the individual presents we were able to provide, we also had enough left over to help the living unit purchase a gift for everyone to enjoy (common requests were video game systems or additional controllers).
Christmas Day BCC had a total of 30 kids remain on the Baltimore campus on Christmas day. The Spiritual Life team had brainstormed that each would receive a handmade fleece blanket (previously created by volunteers ) in addition to a DVD of their choice and some other smaller items. Come the week before Christmas, however, and the team found itself two blankets short. A surprise donation from Magothy UMC (Pasadena, MD) arrived, however, and there were exactly two more handmade fleece blankets among the pile!
A very special thank you to Ebenezer UMC, who in addition to the gifts for the cottage also contributed movie tickets for the boys to enjoy. On Christmas Day they went to see Star Wars!
Above and Beyond!
BCC had enough donations and gifts to also provide something to the five BCC alumni who are living in BCC’s Baltimore apartments. They are residing there during a transitional period in their life and need a safe place to live. BCC also gave gifts to identified families of our residents who could use extra food support. Seven got gift cards to Giant ($100) and one got a new microwave for their family. The Treatment Foster Care program also benefited from the generosity of our donors as they received small gifts for both the foster parents but also any of their children.