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Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Caroline Lollar delivers toys to children at King’s Home in late December. Caroline, 7, decided herself to donate her birthday presents to youth staying with their mothers at the shelter.
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Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Seven-year-old Caroline Lollar watches children pick out toys from the gifts she collected for her birthday to donate to King’s Home.
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Photo courtesy of Josh Calhoun.
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Photo courtesy of Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators Heather Parramore and Robert Rodriguez.
Valentine’s Day may be meant for recognizing romantic love, but there’s more than one type of love that makes a community stronger.
Every day, people choose to act with generosity, self-sacrifice and love for the sake of their family, their friends, their neighbors or even a perfect stranger.
Most of these acts will be done with almost no fanfare or recognition. But here are the stories of four members of the U.S. 280 corridor community who exemplify the ideals of selfless love.
The Lollar family was driving home from Kampfire for the King, an annual November event in support of King’s Home, when 7-year-old Caroline piped up from the back seat.
Her birthday was coming up, and meeting the children who live at King’s Home gave her an idea: Instead of getting gifts for herself on her birthday, Caroline wanted to give gifts to King’s Home.
“We were a little bit shocked that a 7-year-old came up with this, to be honest,” said Caroline’s father, Chris Lollar.
Chris Lollar has been involved with King’s Home for several years and is on the board of directors, but he said it wasn’t his idea. It was all Caroline.
When asked why she wanted to do this, Caroline said she wanted “to show the love of Jesus” to the children she had met on the hayride at Kampfire for the King.
“Daddy almost cried. It was really sweet, and she really did think of this on her own,” Chris Lollar said.
Caroline, who lives in the Altadena area near U.S. 280 and is a first-grader at Briarwood Christian School, stayed true to her plan. Everyone invited to her birthday party was requested to bring a gift for children ages 10 and younger who are staying with their mothers at King’s Home. Caroline collected about 25 presents, including books, toy trucks, stuffed animals and more.
Valerie Goodman, who works in the marketing department at King’s Home, said the mothers and children Caroline chose to donate to are most often fleeing domestic abuse or homelessness. They come to King’s Home seeking protection, financial support and guidance to put their lives back together, often with “just the clothes on their back and a bag — and sometimes it’s just a trash bag.”
While King’s Home relies in part on the donations and volunteer work of adults in the community, Goodman said it’s much more rare to see the same generosity from young children.
“It’s an incredible story of a child realizing that they are blessed and wanting to give back,” Goodman said.
A few days after her Dec. 15 birthday, Caroline showed up at King’s Home with her father, sister Lily and bags of toys in tow. She had been eagerly anticipating the chance to deliver the toys “because I’ve been waiting for I don’t know how long,” Caroline said.
Caroline was grinning from ear to ear as she placed the presents under the King’s Home Christmas tree and watched the children start playing with the toys she had brought them.
“I think it’s great for the community to see that, because generosity begets generosity,” Goodman said.
Working with Big Brothers Big Sisters requires not just a day of generosity, but dedication for several years. That’s why BBBS match support specialist Blake Dimick said Chelsea resident Josh Calhoun stands out as a Big Brother.
“A big part of what we do is showing up, and showing up in the good times and the bad times,” Dimick said. “Josh is just so consistent.”
Calhoun, who works in computer programming, has been part of BBBS for about seven years. His little brother was 12 at the time and, despite some initial adjustments due to the age gap, Calhoun said he now considers himself as much a friend as a mentor to the now-19-year-old.
“We’ve just gotten to where we really have a great relationship,” Calhoun said. “We look back at some of the pictures from when we first started hanging out and laugh at how we’ve both changed.”
BBBS asked not to share the name of Calhoun’s little brother for his privacy, but Calhoun said he has been in the foster care system and moved between several homes. That can take an emotional toll, and Calhoun said he hopes his presence was helpful in those years.
“I hope I’ve been — if nothing else — some consistency in his life these past seven years when he hasn’t had much consistency anywhere else,” Calhoun said.
Their time together includes hiking at Oak Mountain State Park, dinners at Calhoun’s house, swimming, fishing and watching football games. Calhoun said his little brother had to teach him about fishing, and he helped Calhoun hang his Christmas lights this year.
Dimick said he has been impressed with how Calhoun’s dedication has never wavered, even when he had to make the drive from Chelsea to Walker County just to visit his little brother at one of his foster homes.
In a life where his little [brother] hasn’t had a lot of that, consistency has played a big role,” Dimick said. “He’s extremely selfless.”
Over the years, Calhoun said he has encouraged his little brother to get more serious about his education, and his most recent foster family shares the same priorities. His little brother is now getting ready to graduate, studying to take the ACT and interested in work as an auto mechanic or AC technician.
“I’m just proud of him for graduating high school at this point because education was not the most important thing to him early on. He’s really turned a corner,” Calhoun said. “He’s gotten a lot more serious about his schoolwork and his future. I wish that I could take some credit for that.”
While Calhoun downplays his own participation, Dimick said the impact of a good big brother like Calhoun often reaches further than they realize.
“That’s something Josh has never let him give up on is his education,” Dimick said.
As his little brother grows up and ages out of BBBS, Calhoun said he has no plans to stop being a part of his life. He added that his little brother recently asked Calhoun to be in his wedding someday.
“He’s got big plans for our future, and I certainly hope that turns out to be the case,” Calhoun said.
and Robert Rodriguez
Shelby County Sheriff’s Office investigators Heather Parramore and Robert Rodriguez have one of the hardest jobs in the sheriff’s office: investigating sexual abuse crimes against children across the county.
“It takes a special type of investigator to investigate these types of cases, because you have to be able to cope with what you’re seeing and hearing,” community outreach Dept. Debbie Sumrall said.
Their work is appreciated every day by Owen’s House Executive Director Cindy Greer. About 400 children come to Owen’s House for advocacy work and counseling each year, and the investigators often are involved in the case from the first phone call to their court date a year or two later.
“You can tell they’re investing their lives. It’s not just a job,” Greer said. “I think it’s so important for our families who have had their trust broken to have first responders they know care.”
However, even among the tragedies that Parramore and Rodriguez encounter every day, sometimes one stands out. In early 2016, they began investigating a case of a young child sexually abused by multiple adults. While Greer kept the details confidential to protect the family’s privacy, she said the severity of the case touched hearts at Owen’s House and the sheriff’s office.
“The nature of this tragedy destroyed this family unit,” Sumrall said.
When Parramore and Rodriguez finished their investigation and could have handed off the case for other organizations to take the next steps, they couldn’t get the family out of their minds.
“We were standing on the sidelines, but they were looking for us to find a way not only to cope with what’s going on, but find answers to the tough questions,” Rodriguez said.
“They wanted to help pick up the broken pieces,” Sumrall said.
Parramore and Rodriguez knew the family was not only trying to heal from the heartbreak of a child’s abuse, but the nature of the case meant they had lost their income as well. The investigators held a food drive and a fundraising drive for the family, raising $2,000. Sumrall recalls seeing “two vanloads of all kinds of supplies” leaving the sheriff’s office bound for the family’s home.
“It was because they said, ‘This family is on our hearts and they need help,’” Greer said.
Even now, months later, Sumrall said Parramore and Rodriguez continue to help this family. They took on the responsibility of delivering donations from several local organizations rather than subjecting the family to meeting a stream of unknown people. In late December, Rodriguez helped deliver donated beds to the family. It’s a simple act, but Greer said when a bed might trigger a child’s memories of abuse, having a brand new one can help the healing process.
“A bed is more than a bed for this family,” Greer said.
Greer said the two investigators are a source of “tremendous emotional support” for the mother and child in this family long after their job duties had ended. While the effects of abuse will be lifelong for that child, Sumrall said the consistent positive presence of Parramore and Rodriguez will help, in a small way, to repair the emotional damage.
“I think in a way we’ve been messengers of hope to this family during this horrific time in their lives,” Rodriguez said.
“I think they play that role in a lot of cases, but this one touched everyone,” Greer said.