Toys for Tots seeking donations

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 21, 2015

An estimated 1,000 children received Christmas presents last year through the local Toys for Tots campaign. Kenny Smith, coordinator for the campaign, said they hope to make Christmas wishes come true for more children this year.

Smith has been the coordinator for the local campaign for the past four years. He became involved through the World Outreach Revival Center.

Smith said it’s important to shine a light on the children in need in Pearl River County in order to spread joy this holiday season.

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“In this world nowadays there’s so much harshness and so much hate. This campaign gives us the chance to share some kindness, love and joy with the less fortunate in our area and a way for us to express the joy we feel in our hearts,” Smith said.

Nearly 25 years ago, the church started a church-based outreach Toys for Tots and for the past 12 years they’ve been affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots, Smith said.

Every November, the local group gears up to receive donations before Christmas.

Earlier this month, Smith and local volunteers placed an estimated 100 boxes at businesses countywide for donors to drop off new, unwrapped toys. If donors wish to donate money instead of a toy, Smith said they can purchase a paper train at a local business as part of the Hang-a-Train campaign. The trains cost a dollar each.

Currently, the church is accepting applications from parents or guardians who need assistance in providing gifts for their children this Christmas. Interested parties can apply today from 9 a.m. to noon, Nov. 30 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to noon at the church, which is located at 900 Cayten St.

Smith said they require applicants provide proof of residence, an identification card and their child’s birth certificate. All children less than 12 are eligible to receive toys.

The local group also hosts fundraising events for the campaign, which includes the WRJW radiothon on Dec. 4, the annual Breakfast with Santa at Nissan of Picayune on Dec. 5 and a BCA-state sanctioned barbecue cookoff on Dec. 12.

The Pearl River County Toys for Tots campaign raised more than $13,000 last year. All funds were used to purchase toys.

Through the program, each child receives at least 10 items, including one big toy, four medium toys, stocking stuffers, a stuffed animal and a book, Smith said.

Children are selected through the church’s application process and with the help of other local churches, school districts and the county’s Department of Human Services.

Once applicants are screened, they’re invited to a church orientation, so they can find out about toy pickup times and procedures. Smith said they host “shopping days” where parents can pickup toys before the big day.

“The children don’t know anything. All they know is that they wake up in the morning and see toys in their living room and see that Santa Claus or someone made Christmas happen for them,” Smith said.

Currently, the church is looking for volunteers to help them with the upcoming fundraising events.

Smith said this campaign wouldn’t be possible without the help from the community. Every year, church and community members, Pearl River Central’s Beta Club and JROTC and Picayune Memorial’s JROTC lend a helping hand to ensure children receive Christmas gifts.

This year, the “shopping days” will be held at a building, located on Highway 11 and Cayten Street, which was donated by Dr. Walter Gibson for the event, Smith said.

For more information about Toys for Tots, call the church at 228-304-5353 or visit