Valentine’s outing focuses on giving back
A caravan of parishioners left Sunday service at Greater Cleveland Avenue Christian Church determined to do what they think Jesus would.
The day before, the group, led by Royzetta Cokley, spent hours filling brightly-colored gift bags with sticks of deodorant, tubes of toothpaste, bars of soap and other toiletries. They distributed the bags – pre-Valentine’s Day gifts – to those they deemed most in need of the items and a bit of Christian love.
“This is something that we felt was just the right thing to do,” Cokley said after she and more than a dozen of her fellow Greater Cleveland members passed out bags at the Bethesda Center for the Homeless. Sunday’s distribution schedule also included stops at a local senior citizens’ home, Samaritan Ministries and the Central Library, which has become a hub for many of the city’s homeless.
Cokley’s inspiration for the effort came last Thanksgiving when she volunteered to help feed those in need. Although she enjoyed lending a helping hand, it bothered her to know that many of those served turkey and dressing to would likely go without in the days and months after the holiday season. Cokley recruited fellow parishioners with the goal of giving back often and regularly. The group reached into its own pockets to fund the Valentine’s Day initiative. They also gave out pillowcases that they personalized with uplifting Biblical verses, crosses, stars and other symbols.
“We decided that we want to do things like this year-round to help other people,” said Cokley.
Recipients dug into their gift bags right away and were grateful for what they found. The group of gift-givers included five-year-old Zion Price and several other children.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Zion said with each bag he gave.
His mother, Chelsea, stood nearby, smiling broadly as Zion did his part. She said she had no apprehension about exposing the child to the ugly, stark reality of homelessness.
“I want him to see and to know that not everyone is as fortunate as he is,” she said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by 13-year-old Christian Davis’ mom, Dierdre. Christian blushed as his mom joked that since she was not expecting a material Valentine’s Day gift from her son, his afternoon of community service would have to do.
“This is all the gift I need: seeing him out here giving back,” proclaimed Dierdre Davis.
Friends say Cokley is a modest woman who gives all of herself and asks nothing in return. Her big heart was on full display Sunday. A handful of Bethesda residents discovered that their bags lacked a bar of soap.
“Don’t leave,” Cokley told them. “I am going to get you some soap and bring it back.”
She asked them if they had a soap-brand preference.
“No,” one man responded, “as long as it is the full-size kind and not the little jail-house size.”
Cokley said driving to the store and shelling out a few dollars for soap was a small act on her part, but the smiles and simple pleasure it will bring to others is indeed priceless.