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Using Influence for Good: Shirley Caesar feeds and gives toys to thousands of families

Pastor Shirley Caesar feeds and gives toys to thousands of families at her annual toy drive in Raleigh, NC Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 in partnership with Toys for Tots (Photograph: Instagram)

A legendary gospel singer at the center of a viral Internet challenge isn’t focused on fame and memes, but rather, ministry and giving.

Article By Walter Harris // EEW Magazine Philanthropy

Share Pastor Shirley Caesar isn’t allowing her elevated level of Internet fame (courtesy of the wildly popular #UNameIt Challenge) to distract from her real mission: helping those in need.

The GRAMMY® Award-winning gospel singer fed and gave out toys to thousands of families Sunday, Dec. 18 during her Christmas toy drive.

Wearing a sweatshirt from her personal line with “I got greens, beans, potatoes, tomatoes” colorfully inscribed on it— a phrase from her song "Hold My Mule” looped into DJ Suede’s viral, unauthorized remix—Caesar helped make families’ Christmas even brighter.

Pastor Caesar loves the children! (Photo Credit: Instagram)“Praise God!! Thank-you to everyone who supported my toy drive. I appreciate every one of you!” wrote the excited community-builder in a photo caption on her Instagram page. The charitable event was held at Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, NC.

Caesar's partnership with Toys for Tots, as well as proceeds from the sale of exclusive #UNameIt merchandise, bolstered by rapper Snoop Dogg, made it all possible.

Despite some criticism aimed at the 78-year-old for co-signing the weed-smoking, West Coast lyricist’s rap song and video, Pastor Caesar stands by her support of Snoop.

“So a lot of discussion was made over Snoop Dogg doing the cute little rap song for me, with my ‘Greens Beans Tomatoes Potatoes’ hook on the end of his verses,” she wrote on Instagram a week ago, in an effort to address the controversy.

“Be advised that Mr. Snoop Dogg only did the song after he saw so many folks making videos with alcohol, liquor, twerking and disrespecting my music, name and image. His office called over and voluntarily said, they felt ‘Pastor Caesar was being disrespected by many kids, rappers and others’ and ‘we just wanted to do something that Praised God and thanked her (Pastor Caesar) for her life and career,’” explained the legendary Christian vocalist and preacher.

Pastor Shirley Caesar says she endorsed Snoop Dogg’s version of the #UNameIt Challenge song because he asked permission and approval, respected her Christian values and avoided any vulgarity (Photo Credit: Instagram)She went on to say, “He also didn't ask for any money, where others put up illegal versions on the internet and sold them and t-shirts without my authorization. He sent the song and video to me day before Thanksgiving and asked my approval before either were released, which really touched my staff and I. I have not approved any others or seen them prior to their release.”

As previously reported by EEW Magazine, Caesar filed a legal injunction against DJ Suede, Empire Records and another party, ordering them to remove the video, as well as cease and desist sales of the “Holy My Mule” remix, which she felt was vulgar.

The lawyer representing her explained in a formal statement, “We want to make it clear Pastor Caesar does not endorse the imagery, misogyny and abuse of alcohol endorsed in the video by having her voice everywhere on the track.”

Despite all the hullabaloo, in the end, Caesar, who will be a 2017 recipient of the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys, was able to put smiles on the faces of children, while demonstrating what it means to use fame and influence for the greater good of others.

For her, that's what matters most.

“It's all about the little ones!” Caesar also said on Instagram. “Praise God. Such a wonderful day.”

RELATED: 5 facts about Shirley Caesar's legal injunction against DJ Suede

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