Giving back to the community: Local recovery ministry raises record amount of funds for children in need
The holidays can be tough on families in need and children taking refuge at shelters, but community efforts are helping make the season a little brighter for some.
Outcast 4 Christ Recovery Ministry and Sober Living has been making an effort to give back to the community for the past eight years by raising money to purchase new bikes and toys for less fortunate children. This year, the group surpassed it’s goal by raising a record total of $12,000.
The group’s director, Johnny Bruce, said the fundraiser got a large boost from Walmart with a $3,000 donation and brought in $7,000 from a jailhouse fundraising event — almost double the amount the event has raised in the past.
“With the amount of money that we raised, knowing all of the kids that we’re going to be able to help, I think it’s one of the best things that we’ve ever done in our lives,” Bruce said.
Members of the recovery ministry purchased 43 bikes on Wednesday, which will be distributed to children in local shelters, as well as families in need who have been selected through a screening process.
The group will use the rest of the funds to purchase toys. Some of the items they have bought so far include doll houses, Avengers action figures, Trolls dolls and skateboards.
“We’ve gotten probably like 10 real humongous remote control cars with the Big Wheels that got a little bit of speed to them,” Bruce said. “We’ve got everything that I would think— we have a tendency for shopping for what we would want as kids.”
Kaylyn Weldon-Gary, director of the Community Children’s Shelter in Ardmore, said Bruce and the Outcast 4 Christ Recovery Ministry go out of their way to make sure the children at the shelter are taken care of.
The group provides a new bicycle to every resident that lives in the shelter, in addition to new bikes for the shelter to keep on hand.
“He always checks in, he always makes sure that none of our kiddos are going to slip through the cracks and he really helps us to bolster and support the holiday times for our kids,” Weldon-Gary said.
The shelter serves as a safe place for children who are at risk or need refuge due to neglect, abandonment or abuse. When the gifts from the recovery ministry come in, Weldon-Gary said the children have a wide array of reactions.
“Some of them become overwhelmed, some of them are so joyful,” Weldon-Gary said. “Sometimes it can be the smallest, tiniest thing that will just light their face up the most.”
For children who have been through rough experiences, a brand new bicycle, card game, tubes of lipstick or even items like a new pair of shoes can make all the difference.
“This is one way that we can help them to start healing from some of those histories that they have experienced,” Weldon-Gary said. “We can start helping them to develop new memories and positive emotions around the holidays.”
Bruce said the members of the recovery ministry typically do not get to see the children’s reactions to the gifts at the shelters, but they feel good knowing the impact they have. For many who have struggled with addiction, the fundraiser is a way to continue recovery by giving back.
“It’s an opportunity where we, men and women in recovery who have lived their life in addiction, it’s a selfish life, but when you come back in and you become a part of a community where you’re giving back and you’re helping others, that’s where the change starts coming in,” Bruce said. “That’s where God starts doing the work on our hearts.”
Outcast 4 Christ will also be distributing bicycles and toys to the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma and families in the 20th District Drug Court.
Bruce said they will continue shopping and taking donations up until Dec. 20 and will be distributing the final items to around 15 families in need at a special Christmas celebration on Dec. 23. To make a donation, contact Johnny Bruce at (580) 504-9566.
“We want the community to see what God is doing in our recovery community as far as providing for the kids who are less fortunate in our community and trying to help make a difference — that means a lot to us,” Bruce said, adding that he is very thankful for the sponsors of the fundraiser and all of those who have donated.