By JOSH FRYE
Change of Minds Ministry founder Betty Cox started out with a dream to help bring joy and the love of Christ to the community’s youth through her ministry by creating “Candyland Christmas,” which would help provide toys and other needs for local youth during the Christmas season.
Last year Cox, who supervises local emergency dispatchers, helped revive a basketball game between a group of community youth and a team of Atmore firefighters and police officers to help raise money to support the Christmas event.
“The event and ministry were born out of love,” Cox said. “Love is the key ingredient to everything, and Jesus was the greatest gift of all. The ministry and Candyland Christmas were made from seeds of love to help encourage youth and let them know that they are not alone. It helps show them that they are enough.”
Last year, the policemen and firemen enjoyed a rare win against the Conoco Ballers, who play together at West Park in Atmore (formerly Conoco Park).
This year, the Ballers redeemed themselves, handing the community protectors a convincing, 72-53 defeat. The entire Conoco team expressed its appreciation for the men they faced during the contest.
“It is all fun for a good cause,” Baller T.J. Knox said. “It is important to show young people that the citizens, officers and firefighters are as one. It shows that we all look out for one another and care.”
The public safety team agreed.
“It shows a different side of us,” Atmore Firefighter A.J. Beachy said. “When we respond to calls, it is always a pretty bad day for the person that we are helping. It gives us a nice change of pace and it helps us reach the community on a different level. Events like this help bring us together to the community in a different capacity.”
APD officer Gordon Brooks stressed that forming community relationships are a crucial part of a police officer’s job.
“Our community needs community relationships,” Brooks said. “It shows the community that we are not just the guys that arrest people and give tickets. We are here to help, and we care for each and every citizen and young person. We signed up for this job to offer service to the community and to help in any way that we can. This is what it is all about.”
The basketball tournament generated just over $176 for the Candyland Christmas event, said Cox, who added that the money was earmarked for buying toys and helping cover costs of the event, which was held December 19.