Making A Difference with rag dolls

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Think again if all you see is a roomful of ladies chatting away in the Red Ridge United Methodist Church fellowship hall near Dadeville.

They are doing so much more than just catching up.

They're making rag dolls all by hand, dolls that go directly to children who have been physically and sexually abused in Alabama.

"I was actually in two magazines," said Olene Stoker.

It started when Olene Stoker saw a TV news story out of Chicago 15 years ago.

"I watched a news program out of Chicago and a lot of children had been left alone in an apartment building.. like 15 children," Stoker remembered.

For Stoker that stung like a pin prick.

"I actually started crying and I said, 'God, give me some way that I can reach the children,' said Stoker.

Olene Stoker's first batch of rag dolls went to a juvenile court judge in east Alabama who in turn gave them to the Alabama Child Advocacy Center, a safe haven where abused children can go and meet with social workers and law enforcement.

And when those children were given the dolls, it was like hugging a friend, an angel.

"Right now I feel like crying because it's a wonderful thing," said Stoker.

A wonderful thing the rest of the world soon found out when Olene Stoker's mission caught the eye of Family Circle magazine. Stoker was featured in an 1997 article. It tells the story of a woman's compassion that knows no bounds.

Today, there are more than 180 chapters of the Angel Doll Ministry around America and in a handful of foreign countries.

"That's when they said that we were making a difference," said Stoker.

Since 1996 18,000 dolls have been produced around the world.

"They're simple to make but time consuming," said Gerry White.

Time-consuming yet White wouldn't have it any other way. White is in charge of the Tallapoosa County chapter called Jesus Angel Makers. White remembers a changed life, the life of a little girl.

"We had a teacher who had a child in her class. She had no clothes to wear and she was living with dogs. She got that doll and carried it with her everywhere she went," said White.

Rag dolls for hurting children, making a difference stitch by stitch.

It's estimated that around 9,000 children are sexually and physically abused every year in Alabama.

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