Christmas is all about the Children. That’s the spirit Dr. Floyd Rose brings to one of the most vital annual programs 100 Black Men of Madison undertakes. For Rose, it’s not just one set of children he’s talking about: it is children who care for children of their own at Christmastime.
For the past four years, 100 Black Men of Madison has partnered with Madison schools, as well as corporate partners and sponsors to deliver wrapped gifts to children who have or care for kids of their own. The program is called Christmas For Children With Responsibilities.
“The children we hope to serve are children in school who have children of their own,” said Floyd Rose, president of 100 Black Men of Madison. “So a child who is in school who has a child, that’s who we are primarily trying to serve. The second type of person would be youths who are caregivers for their little brothers and sisters and want them to have a good Christmas. They’re usually 14, 15 years old and doing the kinds of things that 30 year olds are doing. They’re amazing children.”
The kids are referred, without their knowledge, to 100 Black Men by staff across Madison high schools. School personnel — guidance counselors, teachers and other faculty — provide background stories of the kids suggest that they may be compatible with the gift-receiving program.
About four years ago, a friend of Rose’s who works in the Madison School District was visiting a student’s home and was stunned to learn that the family consisted of six children under 17. Thinking about what a family unit with such a young makeup would do around Christmastime inspired Rose to create a system for those kids to receive gifts that would brighten the season for youngsters they care for.
“What we find out is a lot of children are in this situation. Many of these children have no support. They’re just making it on their own. That’s about as real as it can get,” Rose said. “We can’t do everything but we can give it our best shot. We told our corporate partners the story and there’s some partners who I just give a list to and they go out and get the stuff.”
From now until Tuesday, Dec. 17, 100 Black Men is looking for donations of new clothes and new gifts that would go towards easing the stress of high school students caring for other children.
There are two drop-off sites:
- Group Health Cooperative at 1265 John Q Hammons Dr., 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- First Unitarian Society Church at 900 University Bay Dr., 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
A wrapping party is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 18 at First Unitarian Church and the wrapped gifts will subsequently be delivered to children at their schools on Dec. 19.
“The kids won’t know it’s coming!” Rose said. “The other side of that is we don’t want to embarrass anyone. So we don’t want to shame anyone because they’re in need. That defeats the whole point. We want everyone to have the dignity and then pass that on. There’ll be people who grow up and come back and say ‘I wanna help out because someone helped me.’”
Having the school representatives be the face of the program achieves that, Rose said. He believes it is vital for a kid to make that connection with someone at school and returned to the importance of teachers and guidance counselors when asked about the program’s corporate partners.
“This is not about the adults, it’s about the kids. Did you get the job done? That’s all that matters. We want to make sure those kids are served and the hero is not us,” he said. “The hero is the school person who provided the name of the child in need.”