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King University News :: One Family’s Mission to Ensure Christmas for Area Children

BRISTOL, Tenn. Dec. 1, 2014 – Too often, there are children who may not experience the same Christmas joy as what others may. One area family has set out on a quiet mission to ensure the children in our region all have gifts to open Christmas morning.

Barbara Cross, who works at King University, along with her sister Rita Miller, sister-in-law Shirley Malone, and daughter Stephanie Cross have worked to help as many children on the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree as possible.

In 2012, Cross and her family were watching the local news while enjoying their family Christmas dinner. They heard a reporter exclaim that more than 300 children would be without Christmas that year. “It just ripped my heart out,” says Cross. “We sat around the table trying to decide what we could do to make a difference next year. We are a family; my mother had twelve children. We thought there was enough of us to get together to make a difference.”

The family chose to name their efforts, Mable’s Mission, after their mother. They began by buying clothes and toys on sale after the Christmas holiday. Throughout the year, they also held yard sales to raise money to purchase additional items. They also received support from co-workers and King University students, who donated clothes and toys.

For those who give donations toward helping the children, Miller crochets hats to give them as a thank you for their kindness and assistance with the project.

“This mission has grown to include family, friends, and coworkers,” says Cross. “It has grown, and God has blessed it.”

Cross commented she had no idea there were so many children in the Tri-Cities region who are in need. For the 2013 Christmas season, Cross and family along with friends and coworkers were able to provide Christmas for 247 children. This year, they hope to help provide Christmas for 500 area children.

“The Salvation Army has been so wonderful to work with on the Angel Tree project,” Cross says. “God has laid this project on our heart, and we are blessed to be able to do our part.

“This is all about coming together to meet the needs of the children. That is what it comes down to – the children,” added Cross. “Many times people think they don’t have much to give. But, every time someone gives even a little something, it makes a difference. It really does.”

Captain Melissa Irvin has served as an officer in The Salvation Army in Bristol, Tenn., for 13 years. Prior to her service, she had worked with the Angel Tree project since she was in high school. “I don’t think I have ever seen a group of people that have taken on the responsibility and felt the burden for the children [of the Angle Tree] quite like this family has. They have been very humble about it, but they have held yard sales, sold things, and collected items from friends and family. They have made this their mission and goal.

“Last year, at [The Salvation Army’s] volunteer appreciation dinner, this family was so humble, not even wanting recognition for what they had done,” added Captain Irvin. “They give to this project out of the kindness of their hearts; they just wanted to ensure no child went without something for Christmas.”

Visit the following locations if you would like to select an angel from The Salvation Army’s Angel Trees: Walmart just off Volunteer Parkway in Bristol, Tenn., the Bristol Mall in Bristol, Va., Kmart on West State Street in Bristol, Tenn., Kmart in Abingdon, Va., and at Walmart and Verizon Wireless at exit 7 in Bristol, Va. Contact Captain Melissa Irvin at The Salvation Army in Bristol, Tenn., 423.764.6456 for additional information on the Angel Tree project.


King University is a Presbyterian, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.