By Chris Levister
Emma McBath knows firsthand what it feels like to walk in the shadow of illness and death, after all she won a long battle against uterine cancer in 1985, only to lose her 30 year-old-son Derrick to an automobile accident in 2005.
"God held my hand as I walked through those shadows. He told me don't hang your head, go spread some sunshine," says McBath.
So when the San Bernardino retiree reaches behind a sitting chair in her Sierra Way apartment and pulls out boxes filled with bags of Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Ranchers, Blow Pops, Fire Balls, Bazooka Bubblegum lollipops and old fashioned peppermints she is about to spread some sunshine.
Using a recipe of brand name candies, glue, twist top glass canning jars and a selection of bows, ribbons and strands of fake hair, in under an hour McBath meticulously transforms a plastic doll face into a work of edible ministry.
"They love them. There's the sensation of sharing the love" she says, "Twist open the candy covered head and 'voila' it's a refillable jar stuffed with candy."
Started several years ago by women in her church, Restore of Life Ministries on "E" Street, the candy dolls weren't exactly a sensation at the church's fundraisers, says McBath.
"The people loved them but they didn't buy them. The women got discouraged and gave up. I kept making them and started giving them to cancer patients. Now it's my ministry."
McBath pulls a dozen dolls, in various sizes, from a curio cabinet and displays them on a large table.
"The peppermint doll, that's everybody's favorite at Christmas. I can always count on the Tootsie Rolls to bring a big smile. Kids, they like the Blow Pops, Fire Balls and Bazooka bubblegum," says McBath.
"When people see the dolls they instantly fall in love. Their eyes light up. There's something about their little faces that drives the dark clouds away."
With the help of granddaughters Deirdre, Domonique and Daniela, McBath is gearing up for the season that best symbolizes her craft.
"Valentines Day you should see her - every table, chair, every vacant space is filled with red and pink candy dolls. She's like a kid in a candy store giggling and stuff. When people get them, they see it's her way of saying someone cares," said Deirdre.
"We have to say grandma its time to get in bed," says Daniela. She just looks at us - looks at the clock and then opens another bag of candy. It's like she can't wait to share the love. You can see it in her eyes," said Domonique.
McBath admits she's had a few overzealous recipients return the dolls in need of repair.
"They try to eat the glued on candy. I tell them eat the candies from the jar not the head." She gets plenty of requests for refills.
While she continues to give some dolls as gifts McBath is now counting on her creations to generate money for her church's sick and shut-in ministry. The proceeds go to helping people with cancer.
The dolls sell for $25.00, $12.50, $7.50. Purchase one of McBath's signature designs or create your own. She says the dolls bring smiles to young, old, every race - no discrimination here.
"I tell people don't hesitate to give a White person a Black doll we are all God's children." She recalls the White cancer patient who received a Black doll.
"Her eyes were piercing blue - the doll was coco brown." As for her smile says McBath "Pure gold like afternoon sunshine."
Emma McBath - (909) 885-9389.
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