By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
WRJW officials late Friday said their Toys For Tots radiothon topped $10,000 and was expected to eventually top a $13,000 target that the radiothon reached last year. The drive was held on Friday and is a major drive for the local Toys For Tots organization.
“Gifts were over $10,000 at noon on Friday,” said Kenneth Smith, Toys For Tots manager, “and gifts were still rolling in.”
“There are twice as many kids needing help this year,” said station manager Delores Wood, “and they are all depending on us.”
Those wanting to contribute a toy or money to the organization can do so by calling 601-569-9616. Parents needing help with Christmas can also call that number, Toys For Tots officials said. There are also 85 drop box locations spread throughout Picayune and the surrounding areas. Toys For Tots accepts only new, unwrapped toys.
“It’s another great year, despite the bad economy. The people of Pearl River County and the surrounding communities are great givers when asked to help in something like this,” said Wood.
The radio station each year joins with the local Toys For Tots officials to conduct the organization’s major push to raise funds to help reach less fortunate children and those in danger of having a Christmas without experiencing the joy and hope of receiving a gift. Toys For Tots officials say the reason for giving the gifts is to inspire hope in children.
One caller to the program, who made a donation, said she was donating to the cause because she knew what it was like to not receive a gift for Christmas while all the children who lived around her got gifts. “I thought nobody loved me,” she said.
Those who give to the Toys For Tots campaign find out that there is just as much a joy in giving as receiving, said the Rev. David Meeks, pastor of World Outreach Center, 900 Cayten St., the major local sponsor of the event here.
“It usually runs over a thousand (children), and it is expected to top that mark by Christmas,” said Smith.
This is the 29th year that the Rev. Meeks and World Outreach have conducted a toys for needy children drive in Picayune, and about 15 years ago the church became affiliated with the national Toys For Tots Foundation, which is sponsored overall by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and has impeccable credentials for sponsoring charitable undertaking.
In 1947, a group of Marines recognized a problem among the less fortunate at Christmas time and organized Toys For Tots, and since then the organization has distributed 416 million toys to children during the Christmas season.
Said Smith, “Today, 16 million toys are collected and distributed to an average of 7 million children each year at Christmas. This is an incredible accomplishment.”
Smith added to the radio audience, “Also today, Toys For Tots serves over 700 local communities covering all 50 states, the district of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Picayune is a part of that, thanks to the open-hearted people here who give to support the local program.”
Officials said all toys and money collected here remains here to help Pearl River County residents.
Toys For Tots began as a Los Angeles charitable effort in 1947. William Hendricks was inspired by his wife Diane when she tried to donate a homemade Raggedy Ann doll to a needy child but could find no organization that would take the gift.
At her suggestion, he gathered a group of local Marine reservists, including Lt. Col. John Hampton, who coordinated and collected some 5,000 toys for local children that year from collection bins placed outside of Warner Bros. movie theaters, Smith said.
“If you are looking for a way to help children who are facing a bleak Christmas with no presents, there is no better place than Toys For Tots,” said Smith. “All the work is done by volunteers and all the money and gifts go directly to those who really need the support.”