Community support perpetuates Nana’s caring, charitable legacy

nana's Kids check 1

From left, Oak Orchard Boys & Girls Club Director Millie Charnick, Leolga Wright of the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company and Nanticoke Indian Association, Indian River Volunteer Fire Company President Patrick Miller and Carol Taylor, who presented a check and gifts in support of the Nana’s Kids Campaign earlier in December.

OAK ORCHARD — Dorothy “Dottie” Gudger’s mission in life was to help others, especially needy kids.
Her legacy laced with the gift of giving continues through efforts of family, friends and a caring community through the Nana’s Kids Campaign.
“It was her belief that every child should have a smile on their face,” said Patrick Miller, Indian River Volunteer Fire Company president.
This holiday season marks the 4th Annual Nana’s Kids Campaign – named in memory of Ms. Gudger, a 70-year-old Millsboro woman who was murdered on Oct. 31, 2011.

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Carol Taylor – Ms. Gudger’s daughter – made the annual early December trip from her residence in Leesburg, Va., to deliver toys, clothing and money donated from her affluent community.
That is supported by efforts facilitated by collaborating partners in Nana’s Kids Campaign: Indian River Volunteer Fire Company, Boys & Girls Club of Oak Orchard/Riverdale, County Bank, the Community Church of Oak Orchard, Nanticoke Indian Association, Long Neck Elementary School and others.

Nana's kids logoIn four years, total donations in the campaign have reached $48,000.
All donations – money, toys, clothing and gift cards – go directly to the community and kids of the Long Neck/Oak Orchard area. The Boys & Girls Club is a main focal point, and outreach extends to several churches in the area.
For years, Ms. Gudger provided gifts, clothing and school supplies almost anonymously.
After that Halloween 2011 tragedy, Ms. Gudger’s family approached the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company, which had been holding a toy drive.
“The Indian River VFC Toy Drive was my mom’s favorite charity project,” said Ms. Taylor. “Because of growing up in foster care, my mother felt very strongly about supporting the kids in her community. My sister and I live out of state but the at-risk kids we support are from this community; they are the future of Sussex County. We have the opportunity to guide their development, so that when they are the ones sitting in front of me, we together have built a stronger neighborhood.”
“When we got approached by her family after her passing that they wanted this kind of a tradition to carry on, we were delighted to do it,” said Leolga Wright, IRVFC member and Nanticoke Indian Association’s museum director. “The way she went about doing things was so neat in that you never knew about it. It wasn’t until she passed did you hear that she had done all of these great things for the kids that were in need. She just went about it in her own quiet way. It came from her own fund.”
“We didn’t want this unfortunate incident to be a black eye to the community,” said Mr. Miller. “This was a way to give back and recognize Dorothy for her contributions.”
“In her early childhood she didn’t always have the things that she needed. She was determined when she was able to do that she was going to do for others that were in need,” said Ms. Wright. “She just had that eye for knowing when someone was in need. She just had that knack for knowing. There again, I think it comes about because of her lifestyle when she was growing up. She knew what she went through.”
Upward of 100 children/families are touched by Nana’s Kids’ gift of giving.
“What I have been amazed by is when it first happened, I understood everybody kind of donated,” Tom Taylor, noting that the efforts of his wife and collaborating partners impact upward of 100 families. “Then in the second year, everybody still donated. The third year it kept getting bigger. There has never been a drop-off.”
“And there are some sad stories,” said Mr. Taylor.
“We had a family last year where a girl had taken in her sister’s five kids. They had three kids of their own. The sister was just so tickled. She didn’t expect to get all that she got, but Carol really took care of her,” said Oak Orchard Boys & Girls Club Director Millie Charnick. “We do have a lot of needy families in the area.”
“My mother may never be remembered for what she did while living, my hope is that through the Nana’s Kids Campaign, people don’t forget what she stood for and that it’s easy to be kind,” said Ms. Taylor. “As I say every year, these toys/clothes and the monetary donations we receive are more than just things; they represent kindness, generosity, friendship, and love. I am honored every year that my family, my friends, strangers and the community donate their hard earned money to help support this community and the memory of my mom.”
The IRVFC works in collaboration with Ms. Charnick and the Boys & Girls Club, local schools and churches to match Christmas wish lists of needy children.
Ms. Charnick knew Ms. Gudger – affectionately known in the area as “Nana” – as a neighbor and a caring person with a huge heart for kids.
“I live in the same development that she lived in. We used to be on the River Village Homeowners board together. She was always trying to help out people. She loved kids. They always said it came from her being in foster care,” said Ms. Charnick.
Ms. Wright pointed out that Nana’s giving wasn’t only around the holiday season.
“She did the same thing for school supplies,” Ms. Wright said. “So now if there is a family in the community that is really down and out, then we try to pick up the pieces to that.”
Long Neck County Bank is sponsoring a Nana’s Kids giving tree with the Festival of Trees at Grotto’s in Long Neck.
There are other drop-off points.
Financial donations can be made via Indian River Volunteer Fire Company’s web site and Paypal links at
Checks can be made out to IRVFC and mailed to: Carol Taylor, 807 Kendra Terrace, Leesburg, Va., 20176.
Additional information on Nana’s Kids Campaign can be found at
Playground Project
Plans are in the works to perpetuate Nana’s legacy with an expanded playground project on Indian River Volunteer Fire Company land adjacent to the Community Church of Oak Orchard.
“We have a little fenced in area,” said Ms. Charnick. “There is a pre-school at the church’s youth center. We want to try to add playground equipment and name it after Nana.”
A miniature playground was fenced in earlier this year.
“After the first of the year, we are going to start looking into some grants for them, and then being able to broaden that playground for the children,” Ms. Wright said.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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