Children who have undergone or witnessed traumatic experiences will receive some comfort via several teddy bears that have been donated to a local agency committed to preventing violence in the tricounty area.

The youth ministry of St. Stephens United Methodist Church launched its Teddy Bear Ministry in partnership with CASA Family Systems, a victims advocacy agency focused on eliminating violence in Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties.

CASA’s Edisto Children’s Center seeks to prevent and investigate physical and sexual violence against children. The center also treats the victims.

Gail Jarvis, youth director at St. Stephens UMC, said the ministry's objective was to partner with a facility or organization that serves children who are experiencing adversity in their lives.

"The teddy bears are distributed to the organization which, in turn, provides a teddy bear as a form of comfort to the child. The Fragrances of Faith Youth Department are blessed to partner with CASA and also Edisto Health Services," Jarvis said.

"Everyone knows how comforting a teddy bear can be. It takes away all the stress if only for a little while," she said, noting that the youth look forward to continuing to work with CASA on future projects.

Youth ministry members Dajon Holmes and Marcus Jarvis said the ministry provides a way for children to experience the love of Jesus.

"The ministry is a symbol of love and comfort in the same way that Jesus shows love and comfort to us," Holmes said.

Jarvis added, "The teddy ministry is a great way for me to be part of something that is helping children in need of support from people who actually care about them."

The donation was met with much appreciation.

Janice Marie Jenkins, a family advocate at the Edisto Children's Center, thanked the youth group for "gifting the beautiful teddy bears that will bring a smile to the heart of a child or family."

CASA Shelter Coordinator Pamela Rowely said, "I am thankful for the wonderful donations of teddy bears for the children at the shelter. I look forward to working with St. Stephens United Methodist Church in the future."

Robin Livingston, children's advocacy center director at the Edisto Children's Center, said the generous gift of the teddy bears would bring comfort and peace to children needing that "extra kindness."

"It is always an honor to work with the community in helping the children and families that Edisto Children's Center serves.  We welcome church, organization and individual donations," Livingston said.

Jarvis said anyone who is interested in donating a teddy bear or knows of an organization that would benefit from the Teddy Bear Ministry can call her at 803-682-3006.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter @DionneTandD.

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