Surprise kindness

Lesley Keelin greets James Bradham and gives him gifts near her Reynolds Avuene church Christmas morning. Keelin was among a group of people from Celebration Station ministry who were traveling around the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood in a small convoy sp

Cuba Marshall's face lit up when Pastor Bryan Keelin came to the door. It was Christmas Day in a poverty-ridden section of North Charleston, and Keelin was passing out gifts to the former prison inmate and anyone else who needed a little more cheer.

"It's like family," Marshall said of Keelin and his wife, Lesley, as the couple presented him with gifts and hugs in the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood.

While much of Charleston was waking up to a wet Christmas morning, Keelin, a pastor at the Celebration Station ministry, led a caravan of cars and volunteers to pass out toys, clothes, blankets and toiletries to people in homes and also randomly on the rain-slicked streets of North Charleston.

The couple said they wanted to bring a little extra to those with the least by driving through neighborhoods bringing surprise acts of kindness.

The ministry's mission is "just love on people," Bryan Keelin said before the caravan stopped in the median of Spruill Avenue to give a blanket to a man walking by. "So many people have been hurt by so many others," he added.

Gifts were given to locals without question. Adults were specifically targeted because so many other local charities are aimed at children on the holiday.

Work gloves were a common handout since many people in the area are day-laborers ,and gloves will protect their hands and keep them warm. Homeless veterans living at the nearby Good Neighbor Center were given food and clothes as well.

Two of the men helped Friday received their gifts after they were seen walking through the heavy morning downpour. Mark Bodrick and LeRoy Burton were given hats, gloves and loaves of bread. Both men said they were surprised at what came their way on an otherwise dreary day.

"It's marvelous man, it's marvelous man," Bodrick said.

Celebration Station, located at 1935 Reynolds Ave., is a non-denominational mission. It's patrons are many from inner-city neighborhoods, including prostitutes and drug addicts trying to reform their lives, Keelin said.

"We love them until they understand who God is and how much he loves them," he said. The Keelins have five children.

The tiny caravan worked its way through North Charleston for nearly three hours, assisting more than 75 people. When the day ended, Keelin said it was worth it, even if it meant getting rain-soaked on the holiday.

"What I got out of it personally was letting them know that people cared about them," he said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@postandcourier.com.