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When Jim Robinson arrived in Simpsonville to serve as the pastor of Simpsonville Christian Church 11 years ago, he saw children and families who were left out of Christmas gift-giving festivities.
Many of his neighbors did not have the means to buy the extra goodies that make Christmas celebrations special. They had just enough to get by.
The next year, Robinson and members of his Disciples of Christ congregation, started “No Child Left Behind,” so no one living in the 40067 zip code would be left behind at Christmas time.
Yes, the name of their program echoes the educational reform initiative that mandates various school programs, but Robinson’s idea doesn’t address educational standards.
Rather, he and others around Simpsonville mean to include anyone in the community who has a need for food or toys for Christmas.
This marks the 10th year for the program, which began as a church-sponsored activity and now is co-sponsored by the Simpsonville Lions Club.
In recent years, No Child Left Behind has grown to include other groups from around town, such as Simpsonville Methodist Church, Simpsonville Fire Department, the family resource center at Simpsonville Elementary School, Commonwealth Bank, Citizens Union Bank and Smith-McKenney Drugs.
The Simpsonville Police Department and Simpsonville merchants donate toys. Walmart gives discounts on toy purchases for the program. Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops, which meet at Simpsonville Christian, collect food donations and are involved in toy purchases, sorting and gift-wrapping.
“It really is a community effort,” Robinson says, “when it comes to the needs of our neighbors, Simpsonville has a long-standing tradition in helping to make the lives of its residents better.”
In 2010, 132 children in the community received toys or gifts, and 26 families received food baskets.
This year, Robinson expects to gift over 150 children and a few additional families. Toys and food are given to families who apply in early December.
“When I arrived in town, I saw a need,” Robinson said. “But if I hadn’t seen it and made a move to address these needs, someone else would have. We’re that kind of community.”
For instance, Church board member and Lions Club officer Chuck Danison plays a large role in gathering and distributing gifts each year.
The 93 worshiping members of Simpsonville Christian manage the sorting and other hands-on tasks that the project requires. It takes the whole church to pull this project together.
This week will be a busy one for church volunteers, when they match children’s names and family gift requests with the many donations that have been gathered.
A change this season is that recipients are asked to pick up their children’s toys at Simpsonville Christian Church, 7002 Shelbyville Road, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
Robinson said he is pleased with the success, but he doesn’t want to shoulder all the credit.
“It may have been my idea, but it’s the people in our congregation who make it work,” he said.
Want to help?
For additional information or to make a donation to Simpsonville’s No Child Left Behind program, please contact Chuck Danison at 502-437-7450 or Rev. Jim Robinson at 502-722-8995 or write to “No Child Left Behind” c/o Simpsonville Christian Church, P.O. Box 37, Simpsonville, 40067.