Christmas Is For Caring Time

For the 39th year, we are seeking two simple gifts for each resident of the Denton State Supported Living Center. These are men and women whose average age is mid-50s, and who, for the most part, have no moms or dads to buy for them. But they understand Christmas, and they hope for their own packages to unwrap.

These are simple gifts that cost, on average, only $15 or $20. We have the list at our phone bank at WBAP. Please call (214) 525-2550 next Monday morning anytime after 6 AM. Lines will be open next week Monday through Friday until 7 PM each evening. One of our phone bank volunteers will match you up with a gift and a resident.

Call the Christmas is for Caring phone banks at
(214) 525-2550.

You buy the gift, wrap it and take it to any of the 18 DFW Calloways Nurseries before the end of business on Sunday.

Members of the wonderful Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, Region 5 (Fort Worth region) will gather and deliver the packages.

It’s as simple as that, and it’s a great family project for parents with young children or grandchildren.

If you live outside the DFW Metroplex, you can help, too. Here is the website where you can donate.

Or another option would be for you to take gifts to any of the other state facilities that help this innocent and oft-forgotten part of society.

Thank you!

Here is my personal story…
I’m going to tell you a bit of personal information as I tell you about Christmas is for Caring. I’m not especially proud of what I’m going to write, but it will be honest.

I grew up in a protected little environment of College Station (before it grew up). Children with physical and mental challenges weren’t parts of our lives. They weren’t mainstreamed into our schools. I really didn’t know much about them.

Between my 4th and 5th grades in school my mom headed to North Texas State Teachers College (old name) to finish her Master’s in Library Science. My dad was traveling a good bit as part of his work with Texas A&M, so I went with Mom.

While we were in Denton, some friends I had made invited me to go on a campout with their Boy Scout troop. I was excited. Until I found out it was out by a place called the Denton State School. I had seen that place, and I was afraid. I never even told my mom. I just said I couldn’t go.

Continued Below


Jump ahead 25 years. I was out of college and had worked for Texas A&M (Extension) for seven years. Then I’d been in commercial radio at WFAA 570AM for more than two years. They were demanding I do an ad for a quack soil amendment and I was refusing. To the point that I quit my job. I had a wife, three children and a brand new mortgage, but no job. I just wasn’t willing to stoop to doing an ad for a product I knew was no good.

Carl Brazelle, general manager at KRLD in Dallas, heard about the stand I had taken and offered me a job at the 1080 spot on the dial saying, “We’ll never ask you to do an ad you don’t believe in.” Carl had saved my professional life, and to this day I say he was the best boss I ever worked for.

That was May 1980. I was one happy horticulturist. I would have done anything Carl Brazelle asked me to do.

Six months later my phone rang. It was Carl.

“Neil, I need your help.”

“Sure, Carl. Anything.”

“I need you to go to the Denton State School and interview 10 residents for a project we call ‘Christmas is for Kids.’ We need their voices on the radio.”

I was almost trembling when I drove in that gate, but I have to tell you that when I met my first interview, a young man named Mike who was working in their greenhouse, I was instantly a convert. Mike had the biggest smiles, the warmest hugs and the best handshakes I had ever received. He loves gardening, and to this day we can talk plants for long periods of time.

Mike taught me so much and I am a much better person because of it. He is my friend!

I went to Mike’s retirement party from the UNT grounds maintenance department 18 months ago, and Mike and his mom attended our 50th wedding anniversary celebration this past August.

Photo: Mike and Neil enjoy a visit as he retires from the UNT grounds maintenance department last year after 30 years of great service.

Some of the best friends of my life are people I have met in my almost 40 years of volunteering at the Denton State Supported Living Center.

Isn’t it great how life teaches us lessons if we just sit back and take time to learn.

Christmas is for Caring is a good time for me to reflect back on how much good there is in this world. It will be fun being involved yet again next week. I hope you will join in as well.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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