GUEST VIEW: Your chance to 'rescue Christmas'

Major Betzann Carroll

It was just a couple of Christmases ago when I was visiting my son and his family during the Christmas season.

My son is stationed in my hometown at the very center where I first encountered the Salvation Army. Stephen invited me to ‘ride along’ while he picked up the kettles. I have been on many ‘kettle runs’ in my 40-plus years as an officer, but this one was different.

My childhood in Niagara Falls wasn’t particularly bad or good. It was life and I lived it. As we drove, I noticed businesses and buildings that sparked memories. I remembered attending the ‘poor kid’s Christmas party at the Como and getting fries from ‘Old Greenwalls.' Some of the memories I had not encountered since left Niagara Falls for college at 19.

Stephen was in a store putting a stand away and that’s when I discovered the doll with the red dress lying on top of a neatly packed box of donated toys. My eyes filled with tears and I remembered …

My mind went back some 63 years. I remembered a 6-year-old girl who removed the tissue and string from a bundle packed neatly in a brown box.

She started school that year. She was the apple of her daddy’s eye and the baby of the family. September quickly turned to October and her father passed away. Her mother and family were overtaken by grief. While, she may not have completely understood what had happened she knew her dad was gone. October turned to November and on to December. She and her mother moved from the home she had grown up in, to an apartment in a housing project. It was not the home she was used to but it was a clean two-bedroom apartment.

This is where she would celebrate Christmas, or would she? All of her siblings were married or on their own. Her mother never seemed herself anymore. Learning how to care for a coal furnace, balance a checkbook and keeping up with life, took all the strength she had. Christmas was not her first concern.

The 6-year-old dreamed of another life sometimes even pretending she belonged to another family with a mother and a father. Two days before Christmas she heard a knock at the door. Her mother was not home from work and she was not permitted to open the door to strangers. But no one ever said she couldn’t peak out the window.

There on the front steps was a package. When the coast was clear she ran out to get the box. It just had to be for her. Finally, her mom came home. “It’s for you,” mom said. “I don’t know where it came from, but it’s for you. You might as well open it.” She opened the box with some struggling and gently pulled out a bundle of tissue and string. Minutes later she was holding the most beautiful doll wearing an exquisite red dress. Her mother was moved to tears as she held her daughter and the doll tightly in her arms.

I remember this scene so well because the little girl was me. I never found out who gave me that doll or how anyone knew my mom and I were ‘needy’ But, I remember when… ‘God Provided’.

Some 63 years later, we are in the midst of a particularly hard season. I suspect there are many little girls and boys who are facing particularly hard circumstances. Now my children are working to ‘Rescue Christmas’ for as many as they can. You can help rescue Christmas for one of these girls or boys by donating at: https://give.salvationarmy.org/rescuechristmasniagarafalls

Major Betzann Carroll is mother to Major Steve Carroll Jr. who serves with his wife Major Delia Carroll as the commanding officers of The Salvation Army Niagara Falls corps. Major Betzann left Niagara Falls in 1970 to attend the Salvation School for Officer Training in NYC. She then served as a Salvation Army officer throughout the eastern United States until retiring after 38 years.

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