Love expressed: Chattanooga area ministry recognized for civic efforts

Love expressed: Chattanooga area ministry recognized for civic efforts

May 31st, 2014 by Alex Harris in Local Regional News

Chris Rolle brings more pizza over to the serving table during a 2013 Christmas party at the Avondale Youth and Family Development Center. Rolle and his wife, Dorothy, have been honored as local heroes for feeding breakfast to neighborhood children waiting for the school bus.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

It's about love in action, not just emotion.

About taking that action to fix community problems, rather than waiting for a solution to appear.

Since last summer a Chattanooga couple, operating under the name Love Expressed, has been feeding healthy breakfasts to neighborhood children waiting for the bus.

And this month, Chris and Dorothy Rolle were honored by hhgregg and the Maytag Corp. for their efforts, which started with about 10 to 15 children a day. Now they're feeding at least 40 to 50.

"They've just really, really taken their time, and obviously their own money, to purchase the foods and snacks for these children," said Jeff Pearson, senior vice president of marketing at hhgregg, a consumer goods retailer.

"It's just a very powerful story, something that Chris and Dorothy don't have to do, they just do."

Maytag and hhgregg teamed up for the month of May to salute "local heroes" across the country who are making an impact in their communities, Pearson said. Those picked for recognition were nominated by local hhgregg stores.

The Rolles, who serve the children of the Avondale community, will be getting a Maytag washer/dryer pair and a $250 hhgregg gift card for their service.

"We have children that we feed that came some mornings crying, because they had the day before seen death right at their front door," said Chris Rolle. "Most of our children that we feed were in survival mode, and we had to do something about it."

The children they serve attend a number of schools, including Tyner Junior and Senior High Schools, Brainerd High School, Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts, Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts and Orchard Knob Middle and Elementary schools.

Last year, he said, the Rolles were spending about $1,500 a month out of pocket to feed the children. And as word has spread and they've expanded to afternoon snacks, the cost rose to about $2,500 a month for the last few months of school.

"We've fed as many as a hundred children in a day," Rolle said.

The Rolles don't collect retirement checks, but spend "one hundred percent" of their time working on their ministry program. To help pay their bills -- which reached a total of $47,000 last year, including the cost of their awning, according to Rolle -- the Rolles have used some savings, have accepted some donations and also sell various goods, such as produce or sundresses.

The Rolles are strict about not allowing any cursing, fighting or bullying on their property, and they refer to the children as Mr. or Ms. to illustrate the respect that they should have for themselves and others. They pick up trash thrown on the streets around their home, because they want the kids to have clean streets.

Rolle said that two years ago he and his wife moved to their home on Dodson Avenue, near the Avondale Youth Center, and witnessed a lot of disruptive and disrespectful behavior by the children at a nearby bus stop. They prayed about it, and felt led by God to feed the children breakfast.

"That was just the door to get them there," Rolle said. "To let them know there is a better life, there is a better way, you need to go to college, you need to get more focused in school."

The Rolles also were recognized for their service to the Avondale community in December at the annual Kwanzaa celebration at the Eastdale Village Community Church.

And this past winter, during the days of bone-chilling cold, the Rolles also provided cold-weather items to those in need -- including giving away around 300 coats that they received from the Forgotten Child Fund.

Rolle said that they plan to continue with their ministry, including programs planned for the kids for this summer to remain involved in their lives and encourage them to "pay it forward" in the future.

The Rolles are in the process of certifying as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. They still need $900 to pay some fees, but are working on their application in anticipation of having that money to get the certification.

Once certified, the Rolles plan to continue building their ministry through fundraising and grantwriting.

"We're desperately in trouble with the youth in this city -- in this nation really, but we have to take one bite at a time," Rolle said. "So we're looking out for our community, we want to see it throughout the city, and hopefully one day it will be national."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.