Cleveland woman’s charity helps struggling families at Christmas

Dinah Wilridge Cochran (center) says she started Share Your Christmas 28 years ago after Interfaith Ministries dissolved. She has help every year from some of her five children, two of whom are pictured with her at the Dec. 15 event at Douglass Gym in Cleveland.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Dozens of labeled bags filled with Christmas presents lined the Douglass Gym in Cleveland on Dec. 15 as Share Your Christmas lived up to its name.

Founder Dinah Wilridge Cochran, who began the charity organization 28 years ago, greeted each family as they came in to collect the gifts that were carefully selected based on the ages and genders of the children in the family.

Everyone who asked for assistance was helped, Cochran said, even a last-minute request received on the day of the event. Knowing all too well the feeling of a meager Christmas with little or no gifts, Cochran was committed to making sure no child went without gifts.

“As a child, we were lucky to get a comb and a brush for Christmas, and we were happy to have them,” she said. “I just don’t want nobody to be left without Christmas.”

Cochran, a care provider for the elderly, started the organization 28 years ago when Interfaith Ministries dissolved, ending a Christmas charity for children in the Cleveland area.

“I was volunteering there, so when they shut down, I just started doing it myself, and it took off,” she said. “People needed it in the community.”

Along the way she had help from some of the most influential members of the community – judges and attorneys in the Liberty County Courthouse. She also counts on the support of Martin Chevrolet, Performance Trucking and CBS Furniture, among others.

“John and Tammy Hart from Fostoria were my biggest donors this year. They brought a whole trailer load of toys and made a financial donation,” Cochran said. “It went a long way to providing Christmas for these kids this year.”

Her daughter, Rosalind Wilridge, 43, who lives in New York City and works in the music industry, came home to Cleveland to help distribute toys.

“I am so blown away to see the smiles on the faces of the children,” Wilridge said. “I come home at this time every year just to be a part of it. I am so happy that my mom helps the people. I am trying not to cry right now but I am so proud of her and to see the families who depend on her.”

Cochran says she doesn’t make a lot of money as a care provider for the elderly but puts as much as she can spare toward the cause.

“All of my kids are grown, so all that little money I make goes toward this,” she said.   

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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