A Century and Counting of Caroling For Kids

When the holiday season rolls around, we all have our own traditions to look forward to. But for Nashville, few traditions have enjoyed the long standing or community support of Fannie Battle Day Home for Children’s Caroling for Kids fundraiser.
      Every Christmas season for the last century, the organization has built on its mission to provide child care and educational assistance for the area’s most vulnerable residents by organizing carolers who sing in return for donations. The tradition began in the winter of 1916 when the home found itself with less than $1 in the bank. Volunteer singers and local musicians banded together to create the first Caroling for Kids campaign, performing at local theaters, hotels, and schools, raising $787 and establishing a tradition that would last until today.
      “We absolutely love our traditions, especially when it comes to cherished holiday ones,” Melissa McWilliams, development director for Fannie Battle, says. “We often hear from longtime carolers that have caroled since they were kids and now they carol with their grandkids. And they have always had a bright smile thinking of the memories made.”
      Margaret (Peg) Lauderdale Williams is one such longtime caroler. “We caroled each Christmas Eve on Skyline Drive in the ’50s and Golf Club Lane in the ’60s and ’70s,” Williams says. “In our most recent caroling history, we have serenaded our street, Meadowbrook Avenue, since sometime in the 1980s when my mother could no longer continue the tradition.
      “We have a dedicated following of probably 25 to 30 carolers who show up every Christmas Eve, but some years we have had up to 50 in our chorus,” she continues. “They all know what to expect: Arrive at 5 p.m. for the warm up. Our warmup consists of my mother’s recipe of savory sausage pinwheels — a recipe loved by all, a few hors d’oeuvres, and whatever anyone else brings to contribute. We have a quick practice at 6 p.m., fill our glasses with a nip of wine, sparkling cider or whatever tickles our fancy, and we hit the road! Our round takes us about one hour to complete and most of our neighbors know to expect us.”
      The event has maintained its success not only because of East Nashville’s love for its holiday traditions, but because of the immense good that it does for one of the community’s most philanthropic organizations. With almost 100 percent volunteer participants, almost all of the donations are put directly back into Fannie Battle Day Home to cover its overhead, from equipment and supplies to competitive pay for teachers.
      “For the past 10 years we have raised, on average, enough funds to feed breakfast, lunch, and a snack to our children for a year,” McWilliams says. “As we continue to add classrooms, we have increased need for healthy, nutritious meals. Caroling groups collect an average of $100, and this year, we hope to add 10 new caroling groups to help supplement the costs of expansion.”
      This year, Fannie Battle is planning its first kickoff party a month prior to the event to help get people into the spirit, introduce new volunteers to caroling, and connect participants with the organization’s mission and the families it serves. With the recent growth in East Nashville, the organization expects plenty of newcomers, but also knows that much will stay the same.
      “While the area of East Nashville continues to change, the spirit of giving in our community does not,” McWilliams says. “The support we receive from our neighbors … is constantly growing, which reinforces the success and longevity of our program and mission overall.”
      Interested volunteers can sign up for the kickoff event on Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 4-5:30 p.m. at Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, 108 Chapel Ave. For more information, visit www.fanniebattle.org.