Back in August, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, which serves Shelby County children who are victims of severe physical and sexual abuse, put out a plea to the community to donate teddy bears for its then-empty wall of bears.
A group of employees from FedEx made a donation of teddy bears to the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.
(Photo Courtesy of Memphis Child Advocacy Center)
The community promptly responded and donations of new teddy bears came pouring in to the center, 1085 Poplar Ave.
Staff members say just about everyone who enters the center is moved by its large Teddy Bear Wall, which houses dozens of cubbyholes stuffed with big, plush teddy bears of all colors and styles. Upon arrival, each child selects a cuddly toy to comfort them during a traumatic time.
“It gives them a sense of ownership to pick their very own bear from the bear wall, and it makes them feel good,” said Kelly Gonzales, MCAC volunteer coordinator. “That bear is their friend throughout the process. They can take it to all their therapy sessions, and they can take it through the court process. It brings them comfort.”
When the United Way board of directors at FedEx Corp. recently challenged work teams to choose a United Way agency to help this holiday season, Debbie Williams, manager of strategic operations programs at FedEx, said her team knew they wanted to replenish the MCAC teddy bear supply.
United Way gave teams tote bags to fill with something needed by their chosen agency, and Williams and her seven colleagues on Team Quinn – the Operations & Service Support Organization reporting to Bob Quinn at FedEx Corporate – began filling theirs with brand-new cuddly bears.
“Looking at the list, the Child Advocacy Center really resonated with us, and we liked the idea of getting bears for their bear wall,” Williams said. “We began to collect the bears, and we kept them in an open area where people would come by and see all the new bears. They became part of our daily culture around here, and they brought a smile to our faces … but as much as they made us smile for the three weeks they were here, I can just imagine the looks on those children’s faces when they choose a bear. They’ve had such a rough experience.”
Team Quinn collected 71 bears, including several that measured more than 4 feet tall.
After filling their totes, teams were asked to take a creative group photo and submit their story to the United Way board at FedEx for a chance to win $1,000 for their agency.
About 125 teams worldwide and from all operating companies submitted entries, and Team Quinn’s bear drive won first place in the small-team category.
“The one thing that was really neat about this is that we got to choose how to give back,” Williams said. “Each team did something that was meaningful to them. It was such a great experience to see the team come together to achieve a common goal, and then to tour the center and really see how much that organization impacts our city and county – they’re just amazing to me. It blew us away.”
Gonzales said FedEx employees have a long history of supporting MCAC in various ways, from serving on the board to cleaning up the grounds to donating items from the center’s Amazon Wish List.
“They always want to come down and work, year-round and not just during the holidays,” Gonzales said. “We appreciate anything and everything people do for us, whether they bring in one bear or 71 bears.”
Gonzales said that between the children served and their siblings, the center goes through about 2,000 bears each year.
“Right now, we can barely get into our closet because it’s so full of bears,” she said. “We appreciate that.”