Clowns, Clothing and Christ Part One

I had the opportunity to travel with a Christian charity that distributed clothes and supplies to poor children living in Appalachia.  Our first stop was a small elementary school deep in the mountains.
IMG_5061_01_02F IMG_5083_01_01F

Oh, and we had a clown ministry with us as well.

01_IMG_5224_01_01F 05_IMG_5157_01_01F

Hours before we would open the doors, families began lining  up outside the school.  >> Inside, volunteers  from both the charity and the school began setting up distribution  tables in the gymnasium with signs denoting the grades.

04_IMG_5117_01_01F 03_IMG_5116_01_01F

The clowns prepare clown-stuff.

06_IMG_5162_01_01F 09_IMG_5219_01_01F

People from all over the world (including my mother) had sent in hundreds of hand-made dresses for the girls and  store-bought jeans for the boys. Each plastic bag had socks, undies and toiletries.  We would also hand out hundreds of nylon backpacks filled with basic school supplies.


volunteers help set out the bags of clothing by school-grade and dress size.

11_IMG_5234_01_01F 12_IMG_5236_01_01F

In the school lobby, volunteers sign in each family and their children.  It was a slow process because care had to be taken that the kids actually went to that school.  A few were turned away because they had come in from another area. >>This woman had come in with four of her grand children.  I couldn’t say how old she was because in this part of the country poor diet, dangerous jobs and hard living  make age-guessing nearly impossible. She had a weirdly youthful, almost childlike demeanor.  The way she points at her youngest granddaughter reminds me of a little girl.


13_IMG_5256_01_01F 08_IMG_5191_01_01F

Everyone in this family barely spoke above a whisper.  Although they look like total hardasses – and they are,  make no mistake –  they were clearly very concerned and protective of their children.   A few families came in with a grabby “where’s the free stuff?” attitude.  But only a few.  Most, like this family, were very humble and respectful and maybe even a tiny bit humiliated by the experience.  I was told  by one of the school employees that everything that they were wearing was donated to them except for the “Best Dad” shirt.  He clearly loved his kids, so, yeah: Best Dad .  >> The two gentlemen on the right were affiliated with the charity.  They were both quite sincere, hard-working dudes who have dedicated their retirement years to helping others.  It is worth noting that the man in the grey t-shirt was a Korean-war vet who always carried around a book called “The Marine Bible.”  He hated me on-sight, never said a word to me the whole week but  complained about Obama pretty much constantly.


A little boy  in his dad’s protective embrace never said a word.  He  had small seizures every few minutes where his eyes would roll back to the whites and his mouth would turn down.  I do have several pictures of this happening but I have no intention of showing them. There would be no purpose to that.

15_IMG_5265_01_01F 16_IMG_5210_01_01F

The  woman in the brown t-shirt came in  with just her little boy.  She was very, very shy and did not like the camera. I only include this picture of her because later on she rewarded me with one of the best smiles of the whole trip.  >>  Back in the gym, a clown waits for the children to arrive.

Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will be posted soon.

Text and Images © Andrew Auten – All Rights Reserved