Retired Lawrenceville minister spreads love and laughter

Some guys like to spend their retirement doing nothing but fishing. Not Dr. Lamar Holley.

When Holley retired as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville two years ago, friends Jim and Peggy Freeman invited him and his wife Jean to accompany them on a trip to Moldova. Holley was touched by the extreme poverty of the country, especially the plight of the children.

It was this experience that provided inspiration for what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Two years ago this month, he created KidStuff to bring love and laughter into the lives of children around the world.

While KidStuff provides continuing medication treatment programs for children in a Moldovan orphanage and assists with various refugee programs, most of the people it helps at the moment are right here at home.

"KidStuff spent $700 to send 40 Gwinnett foster families to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus when it was in town," said Michelle Mason, president of the Gwinnett Adoptive and Foster Parents Association.

Holley's organization also provides foster families with Braves tickets, Kroger gift certificates and assistance in emergency situations.

Gwinnett Children's Shelter is another local organization on the list for these spreaders of love and laughter. KidStuff provided sports equipment to the shelter and landscaped the grounds in partnership with Ruppert Nurseries in Lilburn.

Giving time and talent to children can be very rewarding, but the joy is even greater when the spirit starts to spread.

"What brings us the greatest delight is when we are privileged to see one child reaching out to show kindness to another. One of our little friends, Gray Stephenson, did just that," Holley said.

Six-year-old Gray told his mother he wanted to use money he had earned to pay for another child to go to Build-A-Bear. At that time, Holley was ministering to a family who'd just lost a 2-year-old child to a terminal disease. KidStuff connected the two families. They went out to dinner together and afterward, Gray imparted love and laughter to the grieving couple's 4-year-old daughter as the two stuffed Build-A-Bears together.

While spending his retirement in a whole new ministry, Holley does find at least a little time to fish. Twice a year, in cooperation with Sosebee Auto Supply Company in Lawrenceville, Holley takes dozens of autistic children and their families fishing.

For more information, or to help spread love and laughter, call 770-237-2877 or e-mail lamarholley@kidstuff-USA.org.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.