First and foremost, I need to tell you that I was served crow for lunch on Tuesday. And I had it coming.
I had heard of the Service League of Cherokee County for many years. But I had no idea what they were really about.
For whatever the reason, I had it in my mind that it was a woman’s social club that consisted of the elite women of Cherokee County. I have even heard others refer to it as “uppity.” And to be perfectly honest, I actually haven’t given much thought to it beyond that.
On Tuesday at Rotary, our guest speaker was a lady named Delane Stevens. She is the president of the Service League of Cherokee County. I don’t know Delane Stevens or anything about her. If I had ever met her before Tuesday, I have no recollection of it.
She spoke about the Service League and the many children that they help throughout our county. They put on Riverfest every year with the proceeds going to charity. They sell cookbooks to raise money. They host the Service League Ball as another way of raising funds.
So what, you might ask, makes them so special? We have many groups that raise funds for charity. Every dime raised by the Service League stays in Cherokee County to help our own children that are in need.
Then why don’t we hear more about what they do? The reason is that many times their contributions aren’t like other groups that write checks for thousands of dollars. They might be paying a utility bill for a family so they will have heat. They may buy a child a new pair of shoes. They don’t give money. They take care of needs themselves so they know exactly how the money they have collected is spent.
Mrs. Stevens came to our meeting not to ask for money, but to share with our club the mission of the Service League. She said something that touched me. She said that she felt called by God to be a part of her organization. I was listening and I believed her. I could feel it.
Thirty-two percent of Cherokee County students qualify for free or reduced lunches. One out of every three children lives in a situation many of us cannot comprehend. I’m not talking about children in a third-world country. I’m talking about right here within the boundaries of our county.
I’m not saying that sending money to other parts of the world is a bad thing. Any charity done for the right reason can’t be anything but good. But I will say this knowing that there will be some that disagree with me.
But before we worry about sending money elsewhere, let’s make sure every child in our own county has a coat for the winter. Let’s make sure every child in our county has a pair of shoes to wear to school. From listening to Mrs. Stevens, I believe the Service League of Cherokee County is doing just that.
So if you want to know that your contributions are going to directly help a hometown family in need, then you can trust your dollars with the Service League.
Growing up at North Canton Elementary, I was no stranger to seeing other children living in conditions I couldn’t even imagine. Listening to Mrs. Stevens was a humbling experience.
For I have never had to worry where my next meal would come from. I always had clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. But I remembered as she was talking other kids at North Canton that wore the same clothes every day. They wore shoes with holes in them. And back then, I didn’t think a lot about it.
But 40 years later, we still have children experiencing the same problems. What does that say about us as a society? I don’t have the answer.
Thank you, Mrs. Stevens, for sharing your message of hope. And please accept my apology for my ignorant opinion of your organization.
I may have had to eat crow, but I think it made me stronger. I, too, believe you were called by God to serve our children.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.