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“Hoping to give a child a smile when that child really doesn’t have much to smile about” is how Dianne Beha described a recent outreach project of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Harriman.
“Filling their little arms with a warm stuffed animal gives hope and love to them when it is needed,” added Beha, president of the church’s Episcopal Churchwomen.
Hundreds of stuffed animals — ranging from whimsical to hand stitched — were purchased and brought to the church over several weeks.
The stuffed animals were then processed to the altar, being carried by some of the children in the parish to be blessed by Father Harry Howard.
Beha and another parishioner, Anne McGehee, recently delivered the toys to several law enforcement agencies, including police departments of Harriman, Rockwood, Kingston and Spring City, Roane County Sheriff’s Office and Roane County Department of Children’s Services.
These toys may be used in many ways, including providing something to hold on to when a child needs to be removed from his or her home. Officers carry one or two stuffed animals in their patrol cars for such times.
Beth Sams, Assistant to Roane County Sheriff, Jack Stockton mentioned another use for the stuffed animals.
“When a child comes to visit a loved one who is incarcerated, they do not realize that they are not able to reach out and touch that parent or other loved one,” she said. “A stuffed animal is soothing to that child, providing comfort in a very stressful and difficult situation.”
The project will be ongoing, with the bins being refilled as needed.