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Trinity United Methodist Church’s Child Learning Center

Trinity United Methodist Church’s Child Learning Center children and their parents helped put together care packages to give to children in the hospital with facial disabilities such as cleft palates. The packages will be sent to a hospital in Virginia in time for the Christmas holidays.

An Orangeburg church group has helped put a smile on the faces of children with facial disabilities.

Trinity United Methodist Church's Mothers and Daughters in Christ mission group raised money to help provide surgery for children who are born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial abnormalities.

The group raised $480 with the goal of paying for the cost of at least two surgeries.

"It hurts me so to see those kids on television," campaign organizer Queen Brailey said. "It means helping children and families who are not able to provide these types of services for their children. These children really are hated in school, and some of them don't even go to school because of how they look."

Brailey said some of the children have difficulty eating.

"It means so much to us to be able to help at least two kids to be able to do these kinds of things," Brailey said.

The mission group consists of sixth- through eighth-grade girls and mothers of the church.

The monies will go to Operation Smile, an international medical charity that provides free surgeries for children and young adults suffering from facial disabilities.

The organization touts itself as one of the oldest and largest volunteer organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of children worldwide through access to surgical care.

According to Operation Smile, every three minutes a child is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate and often suffer with hunger and thirst as well as difficulty with speech.

Funds were also raised in conjunction with Trinity UMC's child learning center.

The children of the learning center, ages 3 to 4, and their mothers also made packages to give to children with these health challenges who are in the hospital. The packages were sent to a hospital in Virginia the last week in November.

The packages contained coloring books, crayons, toothbrushes, toothpaste, wash clothes, soap and other items.

The Mothers and Daughters of Christ was an outgrowth of a Bible study group started by the senior women of the church in 2008.

The women read in Titus how older women are called to be role models for younger women, and hence the mission was formed.

Vera Graham, founder of the women's Bible study, said the outreach effort helps to instill the value of life and helping others into the young.

"Kids nowadays take a lot for granted because they have things, and there are other children who are not able to do some of the simplest things they take for granted," Graham said. "Smiling is of them."

Graham said bullying can also be a problem at schools.

"Imagine these little kids, innocent children being really ridiculed and bullied at school because of the way they look," she said. "It is a joyous feeling that we can do a little something."

In addition to helping children with facial challenges, the mission group is also encouraging everyone in the Orangeburg community to smile during the month of December in celebrating Jesus' birthday. The campaign is aimed at promoting health, wellness, joy, positivity and unity.

"Children and their families all across our nation are experiencing a multitude of problems," Smile Campaign coordinator Brailey said. "Here, as in other communities, we seldom see our neighbors smiling. Too often we deal with the problems that we face with frowns or sad looks when a smile would sometimes work magic."

The idea for the smile outreach came from a lesson book Brailey wrote for preschool teachers to use in the classroom as a way to teach students about having a caring personality.

Brailey, quoting Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, said, "We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do." She also referenced the popular song, "Smiling Faces," which notes that "a smile may be a frown turned upside down."

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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