- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

When the families of the victims of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon a year ago needed comfort, Bill and Elizabeth Taylor were there with their teddy bears.
The couple handed out more than 450 teddy bears as a way of consoling families who had lost loved ones and providing them with a little assurance. The Arlington County couple are members of Good Bears of the World, which raises money to buy teddy bears to give to public-safety and human-services agencies for children who may be lost or abused.
"In the past, we've just given them to police officers or firefighters, and that was where our involvement ended," says Mr. Taylor, 45, an engineer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
For the first time on September 11, the Taylors faced the victims of tragedy and handed the bears directly to people in need.
"To see their faces when we handed them a bear is something I'll never forget," Mr. Taylor says.
He and his wife handed out the teddy bears during the early hours after the attack while rescuers were still searching through the burning Pentagon building for survivors.
"At that point, people did not know if their loved ones were dead or just trapped down there," he says. "To see some of those people, they were in tears."
Mrs. Taylor, 38, a teddy-bear designer and owner of Agape Bears at Ballston Common Mall, says all the survivors, whether they were adults or children, got bears.
"We went over there whenever there was a briefing for the victims' families, twice a day. We announced we had bears for whoever needed comfort," Mrs. Taylor says. "We gave them to the husbands and wives and mothers and the kids.
"In that situation, it was an immediate reaction," Mrs. Taylor says. "You saw some of the people holding the bears. Although some of the men were trying to be strong, you could see their faces soften quite a bit.
"Everyone needs something to hold onto," adds Mrs. Taylor, who is president of the local chapter of Good Bears of the World.
The couple was able to gain access to the families of September 11 victims because the husband of a Good Bears member worked at the Pentagon. Mr. Taylor says military wives made up red, white and blue ribbons, also to hand out to the families, and they pinned the ribbons on the bears to make them special.
The Taylors have raised money and given away about 6,000 bears to police and fire departments in Northern Virginia and the District. Through Mr. Taylor's connection at Metro, teddy bears are standard gear in police cars operated by the Transit Police.
"We put them in our police cars. Some of the time we use them to work to console children," says Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson. "It is a nice thing to give someone when you are trying to establish rapport. We've used them when we've had children lost or injured in the system."
Mr. Taylor and his wife have been involved in the Good Bears organization for about six years. He says he originally was just a helper to his wife, but he got more involved when he saw how people reacted positively to the bears.
On Thursday, the Taylors replenished the Transit Police's stock by donating another 48 bears.
"We are happy to supply the bears. It has to be in a cruiser so if [the police] are at the scene of an accident or a domestic situation they need to have them right there so they can give them to a child," Mrs. Taylor says.
Good Bears of the World is a nonprofit organization that raises money to purchase more than 20,000 teddy bears annually and then donates the bears to organizations that come into direct contact with children. All the bears are child-safe and contained in sealed plastic bags so they can be kept clean while inside a police or fire-department vehicle.
The organization was created by the late James T. Ownby, the owner of a Hawaiian radio station, who thought teddy bears could be used to spread love to people in need. The local chapter, called Giving Paws Den, was formed in 1997.
Mrs. Taylor says she became involved with teddy bears in the 1980s when her sister asked her to make her a teddy bear. She says in finding a design for the bear, she learned there was an entire subculture of people who were teddy-bear enthusiasts and collectors.
She learned about Good Bears of the World, and in 1995 joined the local chapter, which has six members, including her and her husband.
Besides raising money through donations and auctions of specially made teddy bears, the group's members spend most of their time identifying organizations that can help find homes for their bears.

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