Toys for children: Local Toys for Tots distributes toys to hundreds
The Christmas presents have been unwrapped, the festive decorations stored until next year and thanks to the efforts of the residents and business owners of Pearl River County, the needy children in the county began their new year playing with new toys.
More than 900 children in Pearl River County were the recipients of Christmas presents as a result of the local Toys for Tots campaign.
Kenny Smith has been the coordinator for the Pearl River County Toys for Tots for the past three years. He became involved as a result of his membership at the World Outreach Revival Center.
“I’ve been working with Toys for Tots for 13 years and the church began their outreach about 15 years ago,” Smith said.
Each year beginning in November, Smith and a number of volunteers place boxes in local businesses throughout Pearl River County for donors to drop off unwrapped toys.
“We have great participation from our local business owners,” Smith said. “We couldn’t do this each year without them. I want to thank them tremendously for all their hard work. At least 80 businesses participated during the 2014 holiday season.”
Those wishing to donate money instead of a toy can purchase a paper train at a local business as part of the Hang-A-Train campaign. The cost is a dollar per train and according to Smith, the bulk of their monetary contributions comes from the sale of trains.
The Pearl River County group also hosts a variety of fundraising events including the WRJW radiothon, Best of the Best BBQ cook off and the annual Breakfast with Santa at Nissan of Picayune.
The 2014 Pearl River County Toys for Tots campaign raised more than $13,000. These funds were used to purchase toys for the children.
“Each child received a total of seven toys including one big toy, four small toys, a stocking stuffer and a book,” Smith said. “A company also donated flip flops, so each child got a pair of those until we ran out. Each family received a family board game.”
Toys for Tots partners with local churches, schools and the Department of Human Services to locate families in need of some extra Christmas cheer. Contact information is located on the donation boxes for those wishing to apply for the program, Smith said.
“The Picayune Police Department plays a big role by providing a system of checks and balances,” Smith said. “They ensure that the beneficiaries are not receiving toys from multiple sources.”
After applicants have been screened, they are invited to a play hosted by the church, Smith said. It serves as an orientation so parents can learn about toy pickup times, procedures and any other information about the program.
“We make it a festive event, it’s all about bringing as much joy into their lives as we can,” Smith said.
Smith said there were about 80 volunteers including church and community members and Pearl River Central’s JROTC and Beta Club. Volunteers pick up boxes, interview applicants, shop for toys and sort and organize toys, Smith said.
“I wish I had the words and eloquence to describe how much the volunteers mean to me,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t even begin to undertake this endeavor without their help.”
Toys are distributed the week before Christmas, Smith said.
First and foremost, Smith said, this program is all about making sure the children are happy during Christmas.
“The true reason for the season is to celebrate Jesus and as a part of our church’s ministry, we want this to be a happy time for everyone.”
Smith said his heart lies with the parents.
“I can’t imagine Christmas approaching and the anguish, panic and hopelessness these parents feel about providing presents for their children,” Smith said. “There are many reasons for tough times including layoffs from employment, sudden deaths and a number of different things. It means so much to me to be able to bring joy to the children, peace to the parents and share the word of Jesus. I’ve had times in my life that I have needed help and I know how much I appreciate it.”
Learn more about Toys for Tots at www.toysfortots.org.
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