Charity Circle ‘goes a-caroling’, December 6, 2009

Murfreesboro Post, Lisa Marchesoni, December 6, 2009

Betty Hord believes it’s important to give back to the community.

That’s one reason she’s volunteered for almost 40 years as a member of the Charity Circle of Murfreesboro.

Members, like Hord, began raising money by Christmas caroling.

“If we collected $200 to $300, we it the jackpot,” Hord said with a hearty laugh.

Now, the 150 members raise funds through caroling parties and the annual Duck Ball set April 24 at Stones River Country Club and the Patrons Party set April 9 at Steve and Gerry Waldron’s home. Charity Circle donates the money back to help community residents from babies to senior citizens.

“This group has really done phenomenal work,” Hord explained. “We’ve been blessed in the last six years because the Christy-Houston Foundation gave us a matching grant. With that matching grant, we’ve been able to give back $2 million to Rutherford County organizations the last 10 years.”

One caroling party is set from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. tonight at Richard and Mitzi Michaelson’s home at 303 Minerva Drive where children can get pictures taken with Santa from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. with adults only the last two hours.

The final party will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the home of David and Shannon Parsons at 1529 Avelino Circle. Donations will be accepted at both parties at the door.

“The need is so great and especially during these hard economic times,” Hord said simply. “We just try to do all we can to instill help. We really depend on people being generous for us.”

Nonprofit organizations receiving quarterly donations from the Charity Circle include the Child Advocacy Center, Primary Care and Hope Clinic, Dispensary of Hope, Community Helpers, Elders First Adult Day Services, Project Help, the Domestic Violence Program, Good Shepherd Children’s Home, Special Kids, Rutherford County Food Bank and West Main Mission. Members also serve on the boards to ensure the funds are properly spent.

Executive Director Sharon De Boer of the Child Advocacy Center said Charity Circle has been a faithful supporter of the abused and endangered children and families served at the center.

“They have provided strong leadership to the Child Advocacy Center Board of Directors through the Charity Circle members that serve on the board,” De Boer said. “They have contributed an average of $10,000 per year for the last seven years to the center. They have helped pay for critically needed furniture and equipment that grant funding sources do not pay for. It is the belief of the Child Advocacy Center that children deserve the best especially in their times of crisis and Charity Circle shares that belief.”

Other groups regularly receiving funds include the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Greenhouse Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, an emergency fund for medical, prescription and utility costs and Meals on Wheels. The Murfreesboro Charity Circle Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1996 at MTSU to pay tuition for a Rutherford County student.

Humble beginnings and future

Charity Circle was formed when 26 unmarried women who wished to help the poor formed the Girls Charity Circle in 1910.

They helped build a mission church in 1912 with $400 and donated lumber and labor.

Girls Charity Circle began supplying education, food, sewing lessons, clothing and coal for Murfreesboro’s needy residents. They began singing Christmas carols in 1915 to raise funds to pay for their projects.

Members created a summer recreational program for children. The present city and county recreational program is an outgrowth of this endeavor.

The Charity Circle ran a day care center and operated it in cooperation with First Presbyterian Church. It was for children of working mothers who paid fees on a sliding scale.

Being president is a six-year commitment, two years as vice president and head of special projects, two years as president and two years on the executive board.

“What is near and dear to my heart is special projects,” Hord said. “It is such a blessing to go in all of these organizations and see how it helps all the different people.”

When she chaired special projects, Charity Circle added the Good Shepherd Children’s Home.

“They are such a worthwhile organization,” she noted. “Those children are so precious. You’re happy just to be able to help.”

One donation especially struck close to home.

Hord’s grandson, Gabriel Hallauer, attended Project Help at MTSU for developmentally delayed children from 18 months to 3 years of age.

She watched him ride in the buggy cart donated by Charity Circle.

“It is such a phenomenal program,” Hord said. “They do so much with those children. The signing (sign language) was very helpful for him.”

In the future, Hord hopes other organizations supported by Charity Circle will pair up and move into permanent buildings so rent won’t be part of their expenses and more space will be available. For example, the Rutherford County Food Bank, West Main Mission, Project Help and Special Kids could use expanded space.

One idea being discussed is using some of the space at the old Middle Tennessee Medical Center for non-profit organizations when the new MTMC opens next year.

“It’s a good idea if we can just get everyone on board,” Hord said.

The Charity Circle of Murfreesboro will celebrate its 100th birthday next year.

“It’s purpose stays the same as in 1919 – to give assistance to individuals and organizations in need,” Hord said. “That sums us up.”

Lisa Marchesoni may be reached as 869-0814 or at lmarchesoni@murfreesboropost.com.

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