published Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Family to be honored at Kwanzaa celebration

Cookie Rolle passes out drinks during a Christmas party at the Avondale Youth and Family Development Center on Thursday.
Cookie Rolle passes out drinks during a Christmas party at the Avondale Youth and Family Development Center on Thursday.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
  • photo
    Cookie Rolle smiles as she announces the winner of a door prize at the Avondale Youth and Family Development Center on Thursday.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
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Some children in Avondale see people who have been shot and are still lying in the street bleeding while they walk to the school bus stop, Chris Rolle said.

"How do you go through a war zone and just shake it off?" said Rolle, who lives near the bus stop. "It's ridiculous."

Rolle and his wife, Dorothy "Cookie", see what some of the children experience, and they have invested their own time and money to help by providing breakfast and a safe place for children to gather while waiting for the bus.

The couple will be among several people honored at the 10th annual citywide Kwanzaa celebration today.

Other honorees include Concerned Citizens for Justice, Dr. Elston McClain and Teryl James.

"We want to thank them for filling in the gap," said Charolette Williams, who will co-host the event with Cheryl Norris Sanders. "They are the example of what Jesus was talking about when he said what you have done to the least of these you have done to me."

Those celebrating at Eastdale Village Community Church today at 3 p.m. will be among millions across the country celebrating family, community and culture by focusing on seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

"Kwanzaa is the only African-American holiday created by and for African-Americans," Sanders said. "It's a way to strengthen families and communities."

Festivities will include African drumming and dancing by Rebekah and Kofi Mawuko. There also will be African dancers from Kenya.

The Rolle family will be honored for the creative way they have helped children.

It all starts with food, Chris Rolle said. The couple start their day at 5:30 a.m. preparing breakfast for the youths. Rolle said he is aware that the children can receive free food at school, but he sees food as a way to draw the children so he may minister to other needs. If they need to talk about troubles bothering them, the Rolle family is there to listen. And they always give the children a positive word of affirmation -- such as hope or love -- to start their day. They also call the children Mr. or Ms. to emphasize the respect they want the children to have for themselves and for others.

Breakfast is only the beginning. Rolle said he plans to also have a light snack for the children in the evening. He said he's not trying to take the place of their mothers and fathers, but as long as he sees a need and he has the funds to help, he will.

He and his wife started feeding about 10 children a day out of their own pockets. By the end of this school semester, the crowd had increased to about 30 to 40 people a day. The cost is about $1,500 a month, but Chris Rolle said they will continue for as long as they can.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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