July 2018
Homeplace & Community

Growing Chains of Kindness

Doris Kelley’s hands are constantly in service to others, bringing love and happiness.

 

Doris Kelley holds a 15-inch Raggedy Ann doll she made, along with the 36-inch doll she put together from the supplies given to her by the family of Wilda Knight.

Raggedy Ann and Andy have delighted children since the early 1900s. With their never-ending smiles, red yarn hair, black button eyes and big valentine hearts, the adorable dolls speak the universal language of love and kindness.

Doris Kelley has been making these lovable rag dolls for over 40 years, but she came upon the endearing twosome quite by accident. Her friend, Wilda Knight, had made the dolls for years and asked Kelley to help make their clothes. Kelley agreed and fell in love with the delightful dolls.

According to Kelley, her first attempts at making her own dolls were pretty disheartening.

"My first one was terrible," she laughed. "I didn’t know what I was doing. The doll’s hair was so awful that I had to cut it."

She kept trying, however, and soon, she had developed her own signature style. She now makes both Raggedy Ann and Andy in 15-, 26- and 36-inch sizes. Recently, she added a 20-inch doll that has become very popular. The 15-inch doll is her favorite because it is the ideal size for babies.

Doll making has proved to be a most rewarding hobby.

"It is just something you can sit down and do, and it’s so much fun," she added. "I really like to dress them and fix their hair."

Kelley has never sold any of her dolls, and she has no idea how many she has made. "I love giving them away," she explained. "I have lived long enough to give them to multiple generations. That’s very satisfying."

Kelley’s dolls have journeyed all over the United States and into many foreign countries. One of her dolls found a home in Beijing, China, when her granddaughter, Brooke Dosier, moved there to teach. Brooke’s roommate, from South Africa, fell in love with the doll, so Kelley sent her one. The doll now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. Kelley also sent some dolls with her church’s missionary team when they traveled to Belize.

Doll making is just one of Kelley’s many talents. She is also an avid quilter. For years, she has worked with several other women in a special quilting room, provided by her church, Springfield Methodist Protestant Church. The ladies have made all kinds of quilts, including one "honor quilt" that was later given to the church’s oldest veteran.

Doris, left, visits with Tracey Sims, who served as a missionary to Belize for four years. Doris has sent some of her dolls with mission teams to Belize.

 

Kelley is known throughout this area as an accomplished seamstress. For years, she made costumes for drama productions at Thomasville High School. She once made 75 satin, patriotic costumes for Thomasville’s Bicentennial. She could not recall how many other outfits she may have made through the years.

"Lots!" she laughed.

Years before cheerleaders ordered their uniforms, Kelley sewed the outfits for the cheer groups in Thomasville. She also made many of the matching suits each girl took to camp.

Kelley may best be known as "Thomasville’s favorite lunch lady," a title bestowed on her by students at Thomasville High School. For 28 years, Kelley served as manager of the THS cafeteria. She always believed her job was a ministry, because she knew the children she fed needed much more than food. If Kelley knew about it, no child was ever hungry. Her co-workers related many stories of Kelley using her own money to feed children who were unable to pay. Whenever Kelley found a greater need, she would petition her church for additional help.

Kelley has always had a big smile and a warm heart for all children, but those with disabilities touched her in a special way. For these children, she made sure that coming to "Mrs. Kelley’s lunchroom" was a joyous occasion. It was no secret that she remembered their birthdays with homemade treats such as her incredible caramel cakes and pumpkin rolls.

 

Doris and Sandra Kelley are both members of the Circle of Friends, a group of community women who offer support and encouragement to others. At one meeting, members donned their finest bonnets for a Spring Tea Party.

For years, Kelley prepared pregame meals for the Thomasville Athletic Club. The coaches preferred hearty, home-cooked spreads for their players, and the boys loved Kelley’s cooking. She was even known to repair and wash uniforms for players.

Another interesting story showed the depths of Kelley’s heart. After one Tiger player was injured and transported to the hospital, the medical staff had to cut off his jersey to treat him. The player recovered; however, he was devastated to have lost the jersey he had worn for four years. Kelley stepped in to help. She recovered the pieces and recreated the jersey.

"It was unrecognizable when I started," she stated, "but I kept working until I got it back together. From the stands, you couldn’t tell his jersey had been pieced together."

The youngster was overjoyed that he once again had his special jersey.

Even after retiring in 2006, Kelley still volunteered in the sewing and foods classes at THS. She spent many hours helping students make their outfits for a fashion show or whip up a tasty dish for the annual parents’ banquets. For Kelley, this was time very well spent.

Left to right, Doris, Voncille Newsome and Helen Drinkard were one team who helped to clean up their community. The group picked up trash on the roadsides of London Road.

 

Kelley’s hands are constantly in service to others. She has worked on the Thomasville Salvation Army Board for years. Around Christmas, she can often be seen in front of local stores, ringing bells for the Red Kettle Campaign. At her church, Kelley serves as the community coordinator, treasurer of the Women’s Missionary Society, Sunday school teacher and Junior Missionary Society helper. For many years, she prepared Wednesday night meals at her church. Now, she is a member of one of four food teams who supply meals once a month for the Feed My Sheep ministry. Each Wednesday morning, she joins volunteers from five other churches to minister to residents at Thomasville Healthcare and Rehab. She also presents devotionals regularly to seniors at the Thomasville Nutrition Center.

Just like her Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, Doris Kelley speaks the universal language of love and kindness. With her never-ending smile and big valentine heart, Kelley never stops giving to others.

Raggedy Ann probably summed up Kelley’s life best:

"When we give to another, we never know,

How long the chain of kindness will grow."

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..