Pictured: Boys & Girls Club members Elijah and Dwayne Collins, holding bags, with their mother Cierra Collins behind them, receive Christmas presents from a foursome that have been part of a group that have delivered presents to the Eastern Shore club members for 15 years. At front from left is Jackson Burke, Heather Burke, Pat Bohlen and Boys and Girls Club executive director Kathy Custis. At back is Chip Bohlen and Rob Burke.
Boys & Girls Club executive director Kathy Custis calls the group “my Christmas angels,” and like the past 15 years, the group arrived this week with vehicles loaded with presents for approximately 20 members of the Eastern Shore club.
“This is something we look forward to each year,” said Pat Bohlen, who with her husband Chip, and Rob and Heather Burke, spent weeks procuring over $5,000 worth of tablets, X-box games, bicycles, athletic equipment, school supplies and clothing suited for the sizes and ages of particular children provided by Custis. Each child also gets a wish list item of their own choosing. The presents are individually wrapped.
“We first met the kids from the Eastern Shore years ago when they had to come to Virginia Beach to get Christmas presents. That’s when we adopted the club here and have been making an annual trip ever since. It is the most rewarding thing we do. We really feel it can make a difference in the lives of the children.”
The Bohlens have since moved to Wilmington, N.C. but despite the distance made the early morning drive Monday morning, with the Burkes coming from Virginia Beach with their 11-year-son Jackson. “I was expecting Jackson the first year we helped, so he had grown up with this,” said Heather Burke.
Bohlen says the group buys toys that either help educate or gets the kids outside to play in addition to giving clothes that are suitable to wear to school. The foursome also brings equipment and office supplies for the club that Custis and her staff need to run the club.
Custis has each family receiving gifts to arrive separately with Pat Bohlen explaining that many of the tablets include a year’s subscription for games and educational programs. The exchange took place at the Nassawadox Fire House through the help of Jim Lecato on a day when a driving rain would have made it impossible to meet outside.
Bohlen said the real star of the day was Custis. “She means so much to this club and the kids, and we are just happy to support her.”
Custis said twice weekly food drives are continuing to help feed members who are missing meals provided at the club since COVID-19 forced a shutdown of club activities. “We are out in the communities two days a week delivering food and educational supplies to our members and see about 60 kids on each trip,” said Custis. “They are always eager to see the van pull up.”
Donations for the program can be made to Boys & Girls Club, P.O. Box 101, Melfa, Va. 23410.